Leadership Series (22) How To Become An Engaging Leader. By Victor A. Imhangbe

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Great business leaders are able to get all members of their teams engaged. They do this by offering them challenge, seeking their ideas and contributions and providing them with recognition for their contributions. There is no leader without at least one follower: that’s obvious. Yet the modern leadership industry, now a quarter-century old, is built on the proposition that leaders matter a great deal and followers hardly at all.

Everyone wants to understand just what makes leaders tick, but the simplest to forget is how such leader is perceived by their subordinate. In practice, good followership is made possible when a leader is able to engage the follower in a way of seeking their input in matters that affect the organisation. Most of the limited research and writing on subordinates has tended to either explain their behaviour in the context of leaders’ development rather than followers’ or mistakenly assume that followers are amorphous, all one and the same. As a result, we hardly notice, for example, that followers who tag along mindlessly are altogether different from those who are deeply devoted.

Why Being Engaging Matters?

Engagement is the key driver of individual performance according to extensive psychological research study. In addition it is the degree to which employees think, feel, and act in ways that show their commitment to the organisation. Engaged employees are energised, proud, enthusiastic, and have positive attitudes to work. Organisations whose employees are engaged show higher returns on assets, are more profitable, and yield nearly twice the value of their shareholders compared to companies characterized by low employee engagement. On the contrary, disengaged employees are demotivated to perform as they easily get bored, loss of concentration and often show counterproductive work behaviours, like wasting time online, not showing up, and burning out. It’s been estimated that disengaged employees cost U.S. companies more than $450 billion each year. It is important to have some personality traits of engaging leaders and in the course of this discourse, four traits of engaging leaders shall be discussed below:

FOUR TRAITS OF ENGAGING LEADERS

1. Emotionally stable: Emotional stability helps leaders stay cool under pressure so they can calm down their subordinates and keep everyone on track when things gets tough.

2. Ambitious: Ambition helps leaders set challenging goals their teams need to reach for. That’s especially important considering the reciprocal effects between engagement and performance. In other words, engaged employees perform better, but high-performing individuals will also be more engaged. It’s either a virtuous circle or a vicious cycle depending on how well a leader leads.

3. Sociable: Sociability helps leaders communicate with their teams, develop good networks, and put in the time it takes to nurture those relationships.

4. Inter-personally sensitive than others: Interpersonal sensitivity causes leaders to focus more on others than on themselves. They’re more altruistic and better attuned to their subordinates’ feelings.

It must however be noted that your personality doesn’t determine your leadership style or effectiveness, but only your leadership potentials. Therefore, the more traits you share with potentially disengaging leaders, the more effort it takes to overcome such tendencies. It is up to you to minimise your disengaging tendencies and turn it to a really effective leader. Alternatively, employees’ own personalities can also determine how well they cope with uninspiring work situations. The more conscientious and optimistic employees themselves can be, the better they’ll tolerate both uninspiring jobs and bosses. According to leadership hospitality blog: “Employee engagement has been a concern for the Unites States economy in the last five years”. Recently, based on the “latest Gallup Poll, the percentage of U.S. workers engaged in their jobs continued to hold steady at 31.9% in 2015. Engagement remains higher than it was in 2011-2013”.

If you are occupying a leadership position without engaging your employees, there is the likelihood it will get to stage you won’t be able to contribute 100% of your leadership role due to fatigue or exhaustion. In a situation like this you must learn the process involve to engage your employees.

How to Become An Engaging Leader
• You must be connected with your team: It is not enough to operate an open door policy by allowing every employee to have free access to your office. To get connected and stay connected, you must make it a habit to walk out of your office on routine basis to talk with your team, joke with them, occasionally share lunch with them, work alongside them, engage with questions, and generally be helpful to them. This management philosophy is called (Management By Walking About) – MBWA. This style was made famous by William Hewlett and David Packard, founders of Hewlett Packard (HP), which has become a global best management practice today.

• Relationships Building: According to James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of ‘The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen In Organisations’, they opines that “Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.” Building relationship should not be restricted to memos and emails alone, because relationship requires deliberate 100% effort. You must create a channel of continues communication and trust in the work environment. Creating positive change through people is one of the purposes of leadership. Hence, developing successful relationships with people will enable the actualization of long term goals. A leader’s long-term success is directly related to their ability to connect and form lasting relationships with others.

• Be an effective communicator: One of the first steps to engaged employees is to create an environment of trust. No matter how effective you maybe in terms of communication, if the employees do not trust your utterance, it will not make any positive impact in their mind. To build an environment of trust, it is pertinent to discuss and share corporate goals; the good, the bad and the ugly of the organisation targets with employees at all levels. It may not need your details analysis but create a transparent atmosphere of how their input impacts the future success of the company. An open dialogue should be encouraged and welcomed in order to make people feel heard and valued. It should be a two-way communication to establish rapport and build on each other’s ideas.

From the above discussion, it is clear that the important of engagement is rewarding to the organisation, but it requires small daily efforts of consistency and care; and not something to be achieved overnight. Our next series will reveal the important of a compassionate leader. Your opinion and feedback is appreciated on the comment column. Do you like the piece? It’s always good to share.

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