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Develop human-centered leaders with immersive simulations

Human-centered leadership

Here we look at how organizations can develop human-centered leaders by leveraging the power of immersive simulations.

Over the past several decades training and development programs have placed a significant emphasis on leadership skills. Research in this area has led to different patterns of behavior being grouped together and labeled as leadership styles, each with its own set of guiding principles, focus areas, and best practices. Each style has its own merits and drawbacks and provides part of the solution to the ever-changing and increasingly more complex landscape that leaders need to navigate today.

Leadership theory is not static; it continues to grow over time. More recently, employees are seeking a more positive work experience. They are no longer accepting unhealthy work environments that are primarily the result of poor leadership. As companies worldwide are considering attrition and engagement as critical KPI, it has become increasingly clear that there is a need to shift toward a more human-centered leadership approach.

Human-centered leadership

While a ‘people-first’ leadership approach isn’t an entirely new concept (see: affiliative, coaching, servant, and democratic styles), human-centered leadership embodies the “people over profit” principle and holistically places all humans at the center of business objectives, not solely the employees within an organization. This new holistic approach emphasizes additional skills (empathy, compassion, emotional intelligence, transparency, and authenticity) that build on the skills that have been previously reinforced with traditional leadership styles.

When it comes to putting these skills into practice, immersive simulations provide a psychologically safe environment for the learner to experiment with different responses to critical leadership situations. As it is currently an employee’s market where employees feel more empowered to seek better work environments, the need for strong leadership skills for managers at all levels is critical.

Moments that matter

As many organizations continue to operate a hybrid or full-time remote working model, opportunities for managers to genuinely connect with their teams are dwindling, meaning that critical leadership moments have grown in importance. Whereas a manager may have previously had the chance to redeem themselves after an inappropriate remark over a cup of coffee, with fewer in-person interactions, poor human-centered leadership skills may now mean the loss of a valuable employee. Leadership development simulations mirror the everyday scenarios that managers have to navigate, allowing time and space for learners to carefully evaluate the weight of their words and actions. In leadership simulations, learners are faced with crossroads decisions where their next steps could be a turning point for an employee. For challenging situations such as conflict resolution, providing constructive feedback, or managing change in a company, simulations on leadership ensure that leaders are equipped with the skills to make the best decisions.

Skills that set good leaders apart

For example, consider an employee who generally overachieves on projects assigned to them. If a manager is hyper-focused on the project itself rather than the employee, they may not notice if the employee starts to feel the effects of burnout. That discernment is crucial in identifying issues before it’s too late. This type of human-centered discernment requires heightened emotional intelligence, active listening, and curiosity as the employee may communicate these feelings passively. Then, suppose the manager chooses to disregard a comment the employee makes or simply doesn’t notice it. In this case, the already dissatisfied employee is left with the impression that their wellbeing is not a company priority.

Leaders at all levels can benefit from adopting a policy of openness and transparency and practice radical honesty in order to build a culture of trust and respect where all employees feel psychologically safe. Cultivating authenticity allows for more open conversations between managers and employees, placing an emphasis on the continued satisfaction and engagement of employees, which will lead to improved performance and employee retention.

Though middle-level managers will have the greatest opportunity to enact change through their increased touchpoints with employees at lower levels, implementing human-centered leadership requires full-company participation and commitment. Leadership simulations and scenario-based learning can serve as conduits for actionable and long-lasting change, enhancing the experiences of each and every employee, and reframing the way they view and practice leadership every day.






Emer Keating, Instructional DesignerETU-Emer-Kneating

Emer is a professional instructional designer, technical writer, editor, trainer and communicator, who is able to impart technical knowledge clearly using different media, including e-learning, instructor-led training, online Help, websites, and various forms of documentation. A conscientious worker, Emer enjoys challenges, new experiences, teamwork, and sharing information and skills with others.

ETU-John-Fallon-200x200John Fallon, Product Marketing Leader

John is a product marketing leader with over 20 years’ experience in bringing innovative technology to market. His work across varied sectors and technologies allows him to translate complex technical concepts and capabilities into clear business outcomes. At ETU, John works with customers on new applications of behavioral simulation to L&D programs and the alignment of its R&D to future market needs.

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