Be Human, Lead Human: The Backstory

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As February is the month of ❤️, I want to share with you what I’m in love with right now: my new book Be Human, Lead Human.  Following your passions can lead to work that contributes as much meaning to your life as relationships, pets, and hobbies. I know; I’m living proof of it.

The Early Days

In many ways, I’ve been crafting Be Human, Lead Human for nearly three decades. When I entered the workforce full-time in 1994, I was young, naïve, and inexperienced in the business world. But I was also a classically-trained pianist 🎹 and ballet dancer 💃 , passionate polyglot 🗣, and avid world traveler ✈️ 🌎—each of which equipped me with transferable skills.

I used my strengths of sight reading, language facility, interpreting feelings through movement, and experience living in other cultures to make sense of this foreign environment. I observed others. I read the room. I interpreted patterns and connected dots. I created audience-specific communications. I listened to what was and wasn’t said.

As an aspiring behavioral scientist fascinated by what makes people tick and why they do what they do, I found the workplace the perfect spot to gather data. It’s a living laboratory full of positive and positively atrocious behavioral examples. I carefully cataloged each data point in my mental filing cabinet. I adapted, performed, and was quickly promoted to leadership roles.

As the years went by, I worked with leaders who inspired and others who stifled. I learned a lot about the leaders I wanted—and didn’t want—to emulate. Then one day, I received a letter from the CEO of Ford Motor Company that blew my mind 🤯.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that something was unique about Alan Mulally, Ford’s CEO at the time. His actions, behaviors, and beliefs were different from any leader I had ever encountered. Moreover, they clearly showed up in how he interacted with employees.

I detail the catalyst for my now yearslong friendship with Alan in the introduction of Be Human, Lead Human. It’s a fun story. I won’t spoil the surprise (you can catch a sneak peek of it here!), but I will just say that his heartfelt reaction to my token of appreciation made me realize I had never felt truly seen and valued in the workplace before that moment.

That interaction helped me articulate what differentiated Alan from other leaders. He saw his employees as people, beyond the output they produced for the company. The revelation not only moved me, but also piqued my interest in discovering what else great leaders like him do differently.

The Growing Days

At this point, I’d been in the business world for 15 years. I’d experienced the highs and lows of being an employee, being led well and poorly, leading other humans, surviving toxic cultures, getting thrown under the bus, burnout, being a road warrior, and the rare excitement of being seen, heard, and valued. I craved deeper insight and was hungry to learn as much as I could from our academic friends about the human element of business.

I pursued an MBA at the University of Michigan (Go Blue! 💙 💛 ). I loved that experience so much that I finally became that behavioral scientist, conducting empirical quantitative and qualitative research and writing a dissertation about my findings, which formed the framework and foundation of Be Human, Lead Human. After graduating with my PhD, I continued to interview executive leaders and coaches for additional research and lived experiences, which I sprinkled throughout the book like confetti to give it color, zest, and life.

When I recovered from the intense PhD journey, I took a leap of faith in myself and launched Jennifer Nash Coaching & Consulting. I put my academic training, business acumen, consulting expertise, leadership experience, and research findings to good use. I work with clients to enhance their leadership capabilities, build relational connections, and elevate performance. My clients have achieved amazing results by putting the human back into leadership.

The Sharing Days

As I worked with clients, it struck me how often the media tells stories of leadership failures. I saw story after story in the news about business, political, or community leaders making poor leadership decisions—and the consequences impacting all of us. I began to fully understand the extent to which poor leadership permeates the world and its harmful effects on individuals.

Then I realized I could do something about it! Actually, I already was doing something in my coaching and consulting practice, but I realized I could take it further. Many of my clients expressed the same questions and concerns. What if I could preemptively answer those common questions? If every leader knew what I’d learned, what I was teaching my clients, the world could be a much better place. Obviously, it’s impossible for me to personally work with every leader in the world. So the solution was to share what I know! 

Thus, Be Human, Lead Human is my firstborn. The insights of this book stem from multiple places. My research. Others’ research. Healthy and failed relationships. Lived experiences and regret for paths not taken. Love and distrust. Real life case studies and superhero leaders. Immensely human stories of triumph and tragedy. Impactful encounters and hard-won lessons.

Creating Be Human, Lead Human has been a labor of love ❤️ decades in the making—and worth every minute of it. I could not be prouder of this passion project. It is my contribution to making the world a better place, one leader at a time. I can’t wait to start the next chapter of spreading its message to as many humans as possible!

I have so much more to share about Be Human, Lead Human and how it will help leaders elevate and evolve their leadership capabilities. Don’t miss out! Be sure to subscribe to this newsletter for bi-weekly updates. 

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