A leader’s attitude and behavior determine whether an organization has an engaged workforce or not. In other words, what leaders think and feel and say and do has a profound impact on employee
satisfaction, enthusiasm for their work, desire to do their best, and commitment to go beyond their job descriptions every day. In an article for The Business Thinker, my colleague Jim Stilwell and I describe 13 ways in which leaders affect employee engagement. Here is our list:
1. Understanding of Engagement
What do leaders know about engagement and how aware are they of their reasons for supporting it? What types of engagement will they and won’t they support?
2. Beliefs about Alignment of Engagement with Organization’s Strategic Goals
To what extent do leaders believe that engagement is necessary for achieving business results? Do they believe that employee engagement will help the organization be successful? And why do they believe this?
3. Beliefs about People in General
What do leaders believe about the desire of people to act responsibly, ethically, and in the best interests of the people around them? How confident are leaders that people will try to do their best? To what extent do leaders truly value the people around them?
4. Beliefs about Employees
What do leaders believe about the behavior of their employees? Do they believe that employees always have the best interests of the organization in mind or do they believe that employees are always unthinking and uncaring?
5. Emotional Intelligence
Can leaders perceive and understand emotions in others and in themselves? Are they sensitive to the social/emotional needs of employees? To what extent can leaders manage their own emotions?
6. Tolerance for Dissent, Conflict and Differences among Peers, Direct Reports, and Other Managers
Do leaders tolerate views that are different from their own? Will they listen to employee dissent without being judgmental and punitive? To what extent do leaders actively seek out views that are different from their own?
7. Expression of Caring for Others
Are leaders authentic and open in their expression of appreciation and caring to employees?
8. Tolerance for Autonomy
Will leaders allow employees to act on their own without specific directions on how to complete a task? Will they allow employees to figure out for themselves how to best achieve a goal?
Are leaders both trusting and trustworthy. Do they do what they say they are going to do? Do they follow through on their commitments and responsibilities? Do they give others the authority and responsibility to make important decisions?
10. Bias in Decision-Making
Are leaders aware of the biases underlying their “fast thinking” decisions? Do they know how their biases are affecting their decisions? Is this acceptable to them?
11. Thinking Patterns
Are leaders more cerebral, analytical, and logical in their thinking or are they more emotional and feeling based in their thinking? Whichever pattern is dominant, do they value this kind of thinking in others?
12. Beliefs about Leadership
What do leaders believe about good leadership? Do they believe that one style works for all employees (e.g., command-and-control) or do they believe that the style of most effective leadership depends on the situation? Do they believe that effective leaders are charismatic and operate from a base of power or do they believe that leadership and power should be shared with others?
Are leaders aware of their values and beliefs and how their actions are viewed by others? Is the way that they actually practice leadership in sync with what they believe to be the best way to lead?
We recognize that it’s a tall order to ask every organization leader to have this level of introspection. However, if leaders want employees to be fully engaged in their work and the organization, then leaders need to ask themselves these questions and understand the impact of their answers.