The Impact of Leadership
Studies consistently confirm what most leaders already know – managers and leaders have the most impact on organizational performance. Managers have significant influence on organizational outcomes - both positive and negative. Managers need to look no further than the mirror to find the source of their organization’s success... as well as their organization’s woes. Employee engagement, operational excellence, strategy, revenue growth, and profitability are most impacted by the decisions, indecisions, methods, and approaches used by their organization’s leaders.
Do managers know they are most responsible for their organization’s results? Do they realize that overcoming challenges and leveraging opportunities depend on how well they motivate, exhort, coach, guide, enable, manage, and assimilate their people? Many do not. For example, the cause of most employee disengagement is well known—people’s boss. Yet the remedy is often better incentives, more work flexibility, or other solutions that all but ignore the fundamental issue.
Many managers are also surprised when individual contributors don’t want to move into management, or when they struggle to make the jump from performing tasks to leading people. Or when supervisors struggle with the move to middle management, or when managers move into the executive ranks. Statistics such as those below reveal the struggle with these transitions as so many leaders fail to meet their leadership performance expectations.
Managers and leaders impact their organizations through numerous approaches and styles, but leadership approaches generally fall into three categories. At the lowest category of leadership performance, leaders are so dysfunctional that they have a negative impact on organization performance. Taskmasters, for example, use a telling or bullying approach that makes people feel belittled and fearful. Equally demotivating are phantom leaders who are virtually absent due to their inaccessibility or inability to hold people accountable. Both taskmasters and phantom leaders saddle their organizations with hidden costs related to poor employee engagement, productivity, and retention.
The second category of leaders have a neutral or slightly positive impact on organizational performance, but fall short of their positive potential. They lead as contributors who apply their skills in tactical ways or organizers who merely work as organizational traffic cops who are masterful in the art of delegation but add little direct value.
Lastly, there are leaders who increase organizational performance in significant ways. They lead as coaches who develop top talent and transformers who inspire, exhort, and guide people through strategic organizational improvements. Leaders in this third category create loyal employees who give significant discretionary effort, work collaboratively, create competitive advantage, and cultivate high-performance organizational cultures that attract other top performers.
When people think about great leaders, they often associate great leadership with public company CEOs whose companies have created market leading products and been popularized by the media. However, those companies, like all companies, reach top levels of performance due to the effort of others. Therefore, great leaders who inspire, exhort, coach, guide, manage, and assimilate people must exist at all levels.
Not only do popularized leaders receive significant exposure, so do star performers. Most are very talented and deserving of notoriety, but what is often overlooked is how they became so talented. How do star performers, and great leaders alike, become star performers? Rarely is the answer “they did it all by themselves”. Most had a great mentor or coach who was instrumental in their development. Organizations that have many top performers place great emphasis on mentoring and have managers who lead as coaches.
How about employees? What do employees want from their boss to be able to perform their best? One of the most well-known studies on what employees want from their boss has been conducted annually by Google (https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/the-evolution-of-project-oxygen/). The results have varied year to year with the one exception—the number one attribute. The top attribute most desired by Google’s employees is a boss who leads as a coach. Top performers value development and want a boss who focuses on their development and sets them up for success.
To take a leadership approaches self-assessment to see where you score, click here.