Featured Article: Does Leadership Really Make Any Difference?
By Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Anyone who has ever wondered whether or not leadership makes a difference in our day-to-day lives need look no further than Washington, DC, where a recent epic failure of leadership (all parties, all levels), otherwise known as the great debt ceiling debacle, has resulted in very real consequences for nearly every inhabitant of planet Earth.
Closer to home, leadership in the workplace matters, too, a lot. Both our research and work with clients over the last 15 years point to a clear, irrefutable link between a company's leadership practices and its business outcomes (growth, productivity, and profitability).
Which is why we're so perplexed by a couple of conversations we've had recently (fortunately only a couple, out of many) with executives from various professional associations who were talking with us about keynoting their annual conventions. In discussing with these two associations the topics that would be of value to their audiences, they both suggested that "Leadership isn't really a big draw for our crowd. It's just not an important topic for them."
Pardon our bias, but it should be!
According to recent studies by Towers-Watson, Mercer Consulting, Manpower, Glassdoor.com, and practically every other player in the Human Capital field, a troubling, and growing cohort of employees are disengaged, and downright discontented with their work situations. Truth be known, most have already quit and are just waiting for the right time to actually submit their resignation and stop collecting pay.
To be sure, it's about money, and benefits, and too much work spread out over too few workers. But let's be clear. It's more about failed leadership than anything else. Leadership - the earned commitment of followers.
If leadership is important for your organization, here's a five-step process to up your chances of reaping its benefits. In other words, if you want to improve leadership effectiveness in your outfit, here's what you've got to do:
1. Teach it. Thankfully, most elements of leadership can be taught. Indeed, for most, they must be. A consistent, sustained leadership development program performs two vital functions. First, it imparts leadership skills and knowledge that most people aren't born with... skills that undeniably lead to better business outcomes. Second, and just as important - it broadcasts an unmistakable message: Leadership is important here. If you're going to have a future here, you're going to be an effective leader, period.
2. Measure it. Two ways to do this. One - Survey your workforce, regularly, to find out what's working, what's not, who's leading, and who's not. Two - listen, observe, pay attention. Good leadership is visible, palpable, and recognizable. So is its absence. Combine subjective judgment with more quantifiable measurements to create an accurate picture of who's leading, and how.
3. Evaluate it. Evaluate means assign a value. It means looking at the results of your measurements, and determining those pockets of exemplary leadership, and those that need attention. Then, use that evaluation to:
4. Reward it. Managers who are evaluated as better leaders should be compensated for it. With real money, real privileges, and real promotions. We've long advocated that no less than 25% of a manager's variable compensation should be tied to their leadership performance. Again, use survey input, as well as more subjective observations to determine who gets what. And no, everybody doesn't pass, much less get an "A". Promote good leaders to positions of greater responsibility, thus leveraging their superior skills. And for those who don't make the grade:
5. Coach them. This also works well for good leaders who want to get better. But first, provide it for those whose leadership results don't stack up. Ensure that they know that leadership is a requirement of the job - not a preference - and give them unbridled support to sharpen their skills. If it doesn't take, wish them well and help them get a job somewhere else, preferably with a competitor.
We're serious, folks. Leadership makes a difference. Sometimes all the difference. If you need help with any or all of the five steps above, call us. That's what we do. Whether you choose to get help from beyond your walls, or try it yourself, do something. Get started. Now.
Workforce Woes - here's what you said.
Last month, we asked you to "tell us where it hurts". to send us a quick email - or a comment on Facebook - and tell us the number one issue, with respect to the workforce, and leading people on your team, that keeps you up at night, or causes you the greatest heartburn. We had a drawing among those who sent us ideas, for a complimentary copy of Rebooting Leadership. The winner has been notified, and with the exception of that person, we're sorry to say it wasn't you. Here's a sampling of what you said:
- Pulling the few stragglers of the vision up the mountain while the rest of the group runs and jumps to scale it in their excitement to acheive!
- The war for talent.
- Loss of vision
- Managers' disregard for legal compliance
- Accountability- yes, you "herd" me right. That is what keeps me up at night and makes me chew a lot of hay during the day. (One of our more creative entries.)
- "Managing up"
- Lack of cooperation - fighting - among middle managers.