A good graphical user interface, or “GUI,” is computer code that makes our devices and apps more relatable. So it shouldn’t shock you that the best leaders have the same quality: they work hard to relate positively with — and so bring out the best in — others.
That’s why you can think of good leaders as having a kind of excellent “HUI” — human user interface.
Clearly, when people’s experiences interacting with a leader are negative, the leader’s going to be less effective than she or he could be — after all, whenever others must spend extra time and energy adapting to a leader’s problematic HUI, they won’t be bringing their best.
Consider leaders people admire greatly. Think of Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, Jr., for example. They had amazing HUIs. They knew their impact was inspiring, authentic, and compelling, and their leadership was extraordinary.
Now consider someone you know or work with who may be somewhat to very unaware of how they impact others. They may have a clunky or immature interface, or overuse their authority over others — or just a bad relational habit or two that requires others to do extra work to have a smooth interaction with them. They lack a great HUI and are certainly not practicing conscious self-awareness of their impact.
The more aware you are of how you interact impacts others, the more likely you can lead them in a positive, inspiring, sustainable way. It’s that simple. The reverse is also true.
That’s why conscious awareness and control of your HUI are so critical.
So let’s resolve to optimize our own “human user interface.” I want you to tap into the best version of interactive-you, and in so doing, to help you bring out the best in others, even (particularly) when stress is high.
Here’s a starting point for you. Over the next few weeks, as you are interacting with others, practice conscious self-monitoring. Throughout your interactions, ask yourself at least one, and maybe more, of the following questions:
1. How does my interface come across to others? What experience of me am I generating right now?
2. What do I want my interface to be like, ideally?
3. What do I need to change to make it that way?
Give yourself some leeway as you work with these internal questions. Like any important skill, it takes a bit of time, patience and practice. But eventually that “observer you” will begin to join your conscious awareness, day in and day out. And as it becomes increasingly embedded in your leadership skills, you will look back and wonder how you ever did without it.
You may be the most brilliant, accomplished person in the world: and over time, your HUI can still make or break you as a leader, accelerating or preventing all you hope to achieve. So work on it — you will find observer-you to be invaluable as a leader. And in so doing, you’ll help others be at their best. I can think of no better definition of leadership.
So, how’s your HUI?