People F1rst Leadership

In his new book, Eduardo Braun argues that companies need inspired and emotionally attuned leaders to harness their human potential.

When a results-oriented businessman and former engineer promotes the tweaking of the acronym CEO to mean “chief emotions officer,” the reader can expect a more touchy-feely perspective on how an organization perceives its management and processes. But how can these notions of human potential be understood and harnessed if they are beyond the learned or experiential skill sets of most leaders?

Not to worry, assures People F1rst Leadership author Eduardo Braun. If the leader is inspired and galvanized by a vision of his or her product or service, transferring that emotion to the company and its people is no less daunting than implementing traditional bricks-and-mortar operational strategies. But is it?

Certainly, all leaders work to develop and institute clear objectives based on their vision. Some are more successful than others. And some are more committed to communicating that vision to engender in their people a sense of purpose, pride “and even hope and happiness,” says the author. “These emotions drive the people to work toward the dream or vision.”

Imparting the dream to others requires a leader with a finger on the pulse of their emotional and aspirational needs and desires. Braun inspires as he writes about senior-level executives who see employees as more than factors of production.

The author speaks not only about the visionary ambitions of leaders but also about the aspirations of others within the organization, as success in any people-first scenario requires the participation of all. But the book gives short shrift to how the “chief emotions officer” acquires similarly attuned employees. The author references scores of interviews with top leaders — from Jack Welch to Pope Francis — and their perspectives on how they concentrate on a culture of empowered and happy workers. Yet the book provides no insight into how such workers become caring employees. There is just an obvious list of strategies from which the leader might divine how best to ensure the employee feels so valued as to wholeheartedly buy into the company culture.

It is hard to imagine an employee who would not welcome such an embrace. The leader is fulfilling the “dream,” as Braun puts it, of “awakening the positive emotions in the people to make them and their organization a success.” However, the author fails to address scenarios involving negative emotions, insincerity or lack of trust in the culture, although, with humans being humans, these scenarios are inevitable.

A central theme in this work is that strategy — product design, manufacturing, cost, etc. — and corporate vision and culture are two different animals. Strategy looks at an organization’s people as human capital in the productivity chain — human resources. Vision and culture elevate this resource into a crucial implementing force driving that strategy. We, executive and labourer, our needs and hopes, give life to that strategy.

People F1rst Leadership by Eduardo Braun; Mcgraw-Hill Professional; 304 pages; $39.95