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Worth Repeating: Leadership Matters


In their work, McKinsey has set apart four key traits of great leaders that stand out above others:

  1. Be Supportive
  2. Operate with a Strong Results-Orientation
  3. Seek Different Perspectives
  4. Solve Problems Effectively

I truly love these four items because they are so interdependent. Unfortunately, they are so often rated low in the employee engagement surveys I conduct on behalf of clients. 

Far too many leaders and organizations do not reward these behaviors (i.e. promoting leaders who exhibit them – not pay increases) nor does their culture promote and develop them. In the work I do with companies, I often use a definition of good leadership as “demanding but fair”. I think this captures most of what these four traits are talking about.

Worth Repeating: Leadership Matters1.     Leaders Must Be Supportive

 A leader must be there for their team.

Being able to build relationships both in your team and with your team is a critical part of this. Being there to back them up and to support them when things go wrong (and they will) takes fear out of the equation. Who wants a boss who throws them under the bus?

Watch my video about how fear, anxiety, and lack of trust impact how people perform in their jobs.

2.     Leaders Must Have a Strong Results-Orientation

This is not an “at all costs” perspective, but rather a clear focus on what is going to get us to our goals and our vision. 

It is all about following through. How many times have we heard employees talk about the “flavor of the month”? They know when management is not walking the talk! All too often, great plans are put on a shelf and everyone goes back to reacting to the market rather than driving the market.

3.     Leaders Must Seek Different Perspectives

Years ago we did an exercise called “Outward Bound”. It was a simple exercise where we got a series of questions and provided our own answers. We answered questions that seemed silly, like which sound travels better over water: a high pitched whistle or a low bass tone? We then met as a team and provided a group answer. 

All the teams in the exercise provided higher scores as a team than individually! Surprise, surprise.

So why don’t most leaders use this as a tool to get better plans and better results? Most often it is because they think that it is simpler and faster to just tell people what to do. Woe is the leader who does this!

4.     Solving Problems Effectively

As I said at the outset, the beauty of these four elements is how integrated they are.

To solve effectively, you must seek others’ input and their buy-in. To get that buy-in and full participation, you need to build relationships with your team so they feel that they are valued and their ideas will be given full consideration. Then, you need to take decisive action and follow through. 

Want to improve your company culture? We can help you get started with an engagement survey and then move you along the path to a great culture with our training and coaching processes. Get in touch now for a free consultation!

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Written by Dwight Lacey

Dwight Lacey

Dwight is the President at Workplace Engagement Insights. He leads Workplace Engagement Insights with a clear understanding of the latest employee engagement research, survey best practices, and leadership styles that create successful businesses.

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