Organizational success starts at the top. The quality of leadership has the biggest impact on the bottom line. Successful businesses are those with good leadership.
But there’s a serious problem. Businesses around the globe are facing an urgent need for leadership improvement.
According to a Gallup report, leaders account for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores. Additionally, OC Tanner research found that 82 percent of employees feel their supervisor doesn’t recognize them for what they do, and that 79 percent of employees who quit their jobs claim the major reason for leaving was a lack of appreciation.
For future leaders to realize their potential and have a meaningful impact, they need to be encouraged, nurtured and guided in a more holistic way.
What is causing this? Experience tells me that most businesses do not apply sufficient time and effort in developing their leaders. The elements that are all too often missing are the who, why and where – the humanity of leadership.
As writer Adrian Wooldridge advises in a recent edition of Bloomberg Opinion, studying and performing Shakespeare is a better preparation for the practical demands of business leadership than studying accountancy.
For future leaders to realize their potential and have a meaningful impact, they need to be encouraged, nurtured and guided in a more holistic way, encompassing both the head and the heart of their role. For organizations to succeed over the long-term, it is critical that they get this balance right.
What makes a good leader?
Let’s start by clarifying what leadership is. At its most basic, it starts with person A having a thought and wanting to share it with person B with the intention of inspiring the latter to do something with it, perhaps together. Each of us does this pretty well most days, with family, friends and even with most colleagues. It’s founded on relationship.
True leadership is simply ‘relationship’. Of course, business leadership often requires us to work with and influence people with whom we are unfamiliar and who may not naturally share our personal interests or values. Inevitably, they are asking themselves, why choose to give their all and come along with us? As with every relationship each of us chooses in life, true leadership has mutuality at its core.
Good leaders understand the power of mutuality: mutual trust, respect and purpose.
Good leaders understand the power of mutuality: mutual trust, respect and purpose. Their authenticity is on display in every situation and this builds trust with their people. Their empathy is tangible so that their people feel appreciated and valued. And their intent is clear and relevant, which encourages their people to join them in pursuing the goal. Good leaders create an environment where teamwork and innovation thrive.
It starts with culture
Culture is the glue that holds organizations together and drives, or destroys, quality and performance. As is attributed to the late management guru Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If culture is not nurtured, the various components fall apart.
Again, culture starts at the top. Leaders are the creators, carriers and custodians of culture. Unfortunately, almost daily, there are examples of where culture is wanting. This has serious impacts on organizational performance and reputation. Rightly, culture is increasingly under the microscope.
Some 72 percent of Australian employees cite poor leadership as the dominant reason for leaving their jobs, with communication, curiosity and empathy considered the most critical skill gaps in leaders. Many of us know what it’s like to work with a boss who is more transactional than transformational.
As a true leader, you need to give more of yourself, acknowledge your employees, see them for more than simply their job description and be sure to make them feel that they belong with you.
Effective leadership enhances employee retention by fostering an environment where they feel valued and empowered.
Listen to their questions, ideas and concerns and understand the underlying feelings they are trying to convey. If you do not, you risk creating frustration and even a disconnect that may ultimately drive them away. Put simply, if you want them to give you their most, you must give them yours.
Today’s employees want to grow both professionally and personally. To attract and retain the best, business leaders must provide opportunities for them to do so.
Effective leadership enhances employee retention by fostering an environment where they feel valued and empowered. This is another important reason investing in leadership development shouldn’t be regarded as an expenditure but rather an investment in the growth and sustainability of your business.
By inspiring trust and confidence, not only in their ability as a leader but in the wider team’s ability to succeed, good leaders ultimately create an environment where people aren’t doing things because they have to, but rather because they want to.
This is particularly evident during significant events such as mergers and acquisitions. On paper, it all makes good sense. The synergies are palpable; the potential cost savings are evident; the market growth is irresistible.
Yet why do many of these unions ultimately come apart? Why is the human aspect often overlooked in the planning? Good leaders understand the importance of this while also navigating complex organizational changes.
Effective leaders are grown
Mutual trust, respect and purpose form the bedrock of true leadership. To succeed, organizations must invest in training and coaching to foster these qualities. By giving leaders the knowledge, tools and experience they need, businesses will overcome challenges, foster innovation, attract and retain high-quality people, and create a culture of collaboration, performance and growth.
Investing in leadership development ultimately builds resilient leaders, empowered teams and sustainable success.
And they will build a brand that all their stakeholders can be proud of.
Investing in leadership development ultimately builds resilient leaders, empowered teams and sustainable success in the ever-evolving world of business. So, let’s put the myth of born leaders to rest and start igniting our organizations’ untapped potential.
Larry Robertson is a globally recognized leadership advisor and speaker. Through the twin lenses of clarity and humanity, Robertson’s focus lies in enabling true, effective leadership and making a meaningful difference in the lives of current and emerging leaders and their organizations. His new book, WHY listen to, work and follow YOU? – The 3 Qualities of True Leaders will be released October 31, 2023.