Human-centred leadership and the doors of perception

Reflecting on the Transforming Leadership in Fire and Rescue podcast with Professor Lynda Holt (, I think I learned more in an hour than I care to remember. The joy of listening, linking the underlying emotions with behaviour to demonstrating excellence and creating movement, proved a wonderfully edifying experience, largely because the more I listen the less I know that I know.

In retrospective, having reviewed the discussion and Professor Holts’ exploration of modelling behaviour, creating safe environments and connecting to our essential humanity, I was moved by comparisons to the human-centred approach to fire safety. Puzzled at the time of the podcast by why I dropped the expression in, it was only later that I recalled Grenfell Tower Barrister Danny Friedman KC’s address at the Fire Conference (see FIRE November 2023). The charges levelled against society for failing to protect its most vulnerable hit the audience deeply as he labelled Grenfell “a human rights disaster”.

It came as something of a surprise, therefore, that our conversation should veer towards this extreme, when all that was missing, as Professor Holt counselled, was moving towards connectedness and away from alienation, isolation, separation and many of the causes of stresses and strains and poor health and wellbeing. Simply put, we need to be better connected and human-centric.

If this did not occur to the listener at the time (this listener being something of a reflector), it was because I was engaged in active listening, aka, in the moment, completely absorbed, proper mindful. There was lots to be absorbed in – from rambling asides on the difficulties of maintaining a stiff upper lift when defending Stoicism and gentle pops at Professor Brian Cox on his stellar approach to explaining the universe – to more serious matters on hospital fires and modelling excellence.

There are downsides to abstract deviations – something I’ve chatted to The Firefighters Podcast host Pete Wakefield about. He expresses similar concerns when listening and trying to keep an eye on progress, where the next question is coming from, and if he’s anything like me, how to drink the coffee before it goes cold. Forsaking all else, I’ve long since ditched the questions and dive fully into the here and now. Coffee be damned.

What comes forth, for the most part, is pure, raw, human-centred interconnected spontaneity. Bliss.

Why mention all this? Because FIRE, as reported opposite, is providing a fully digital multi-media service, catering for all learning styles and opening the doors of perception to discover fresh insight and heighten understanding. Behind it all though, is a human-centred approach.

I raised FIRE’s Have A Go Integral Leadership Model ( at the end of the podcast, which links systems and processes, the external collective and individual to the deep internal sea, whilst interlinking all spheres. It is though, thank goodness, primarily concerned with purpose and the human condition. The underlying concept is driven by the individual self for the collective good and reinforced by learning and development.

I forgot to ask what Professor Holt thought of this – I was otherwise engaged in tipping the coffee away – but the body language revealed all, and that is good enough for me. Sometimes it’s not just about listening, it’s about seeing.

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