Leaders go first…Lessons Learned Along the Path of Leadership
By Roy Sheneman, PhD
Recently, I had the opportunity to complete a 4-year odyssey into the depths of leadership development. Along the way, I found many key insights that I thought you might find interesting. The following insights were gleaned from a major research project involving several hundred North American Workers representing numerous industries.
Among the key findings were the following:
During difficult economic times, followers and leaders alike emphasize the importance of production-oriented leadership behaviors. Both groups tend to focus on the nature of the job, rather than the niceties that come with it. In other words, stability is the focus, not so much the pat on the back (although such pats on the back are still appreciated).
The nature of the modern workplace is complicated. It requires leadership that is readily able to adapt to rapidly changing atmospheres and expectations. Leaders would do well to develop a set of skills that would meet such challenges. Reliance on skills developed many years ago without augmenting them with newer approaches to leadership reflecting the changing times may lead to increased levels of frustration and decreased production in the long term.
Workers representing different generations are motivated in different ways. Leaders need to understand this and adjust. Far too many leaders focus on one source of motivation. Research shows that there are several major motivations that must be considered at the individual, team and organizational levels.
These sources include:
1. Money: Many simply want the money. Key lesson for the leader, what you reinforce with money or other recognition tends to be repeated. It worked in kindergarten; it works in the workplace as well.
2. Fun: Where there is enjoyment in the job to be done, motivation increases. Interestingly enough; the more education a person has, the less this motivation shows up. Lesson to the leader; it is good for your followers to laugh once in a while, the social support is vital to your organization’s strength.
3. Personal Reputation: This is powerful across all generations, especially the older generations including the Veterans and Baby Boomers. Lesson to the leader; find ways to recognize your people for the good work they do. Also make work personal, finding ways to connect the workplace to the person through selective branding and other means will pay large dividends. Remember, people need to find purpose in the work itself…their personal reputation depends on this.
4. Personal Challenge: Many people respond to setting and pursuing personal goals. Lesson to the leader; the less educated the follower, the more he or she will respond to setting goals. The wise leader will incorporate this into the workday.
5. Organizational Mission and Vision: Particularly among the lower levels of the organizational structure, the more followers hear about the vision of the organization from their leaders, the more they will buy into it and adjust work behaviors accordingly.
6. Organizational Support: Simply put, the more an organization supports a follower, the more motivated the follower tends to be. Such support may take on many forms including financial, emotional, technological, or physical resource-based support.
Leaders must learn to adapt their leadership style and approaches. Failure to do so may be catastrophic at both the personal and organizational levels.
Leaders need to keep the channels of communication open across the workplace. Talking to everyone in the organization is important. Too often leaders only talk to other leaders at the top of the organizational hierarchy. This is a mistake. In doing so, the leader is unnecessarily distancing himself from his followers creating room for an “us against them” mentality to develop. The antidote, walk around periodically and talk to the people, keeping in touch with them will help motivate and encourage them to continue to do a good job.
As a leader, the move is yours. You must go first and set the tone for how people are to interact. Failure to do so, is simply a failure of leadership.