“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” – Simon Sinek
At the heart of effective leadership lies the ability for an individual to connect, communicate and collaborate with others. Ultimately, it is through the formation of meaningful relationships that a true leader emerges. Yet the leaders who are ahead of the curve and stand out in today’s workplace take this one step further. Leaders leverage these relationships to extract the very best from their employees, specifically through engagement and empowerment. While it seems simple enough, a recent study from Gallup research indicates that less than one-third (32%) of the U.S. workforce is engaged. Incorporate these five actions to help minimize the gap and sustain your leadership edge.
- Reveal your authentic self.
In “Lean In,” Sheryl Sandberg postulates, “It has been an evolution, but I am now a true believer in bringing our whole selves to work. I no longer think people have a professional self for Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time.” Strong leaders know that getting things done means putting your pride and ego aside to genuinely engage. Yet in our over-connected, social media-driven society, some leaders prefer to hide behind managed perception rather than to expose their true selves. If you are willing to be emotionally honest, give and receive feedback openly, and be vulnerable, you’re more likely to be well-received and well-respected by your employees, in fact an employee followship.
- Listen actively, and refine your leadership.
Being present and engaged means living in the moment and making the most of the current situation. As a leader, this requires you to listen more than you speak and to truly understand what you hear. If you’re doing it right, active listening is an exhausting but extremely worthwhile activity. In meetings, trainings and brainstorming sessions, put yourself at peer level with others and listen with the intent to help rather than to simply respond. Just as you want your employees to be teachable, authentic leaders must be willing to accept the fact that employees will teach you things, too. By taking the feedback you receive from your employees and acting on it, you actively build trust among your team.
- Untangle issues to get to the root cause of company problems.
Despite any leader’s best efforts, all leaders should expect to face challenges and unpleasant issues that will arise under their reign. Rather than sweeping them under the rug or establishing a superficial solution that only temporarily puts the problem at bay, it’s critical you possess a willingness to dive deeper and identify the core of these issues. By digging into how the people, processes and culture within your company interact and are interwoven, you can determine how to reassemble these pieces into more workable outcomes for you, your employees and the company.
- Empower teams with fun and freedom.
When it comes down to it, you may spend more waking hours around your work teams than even your spouse or children! That said, developing a positive work culture focused on productive yet enjoyable days is crucial for your sanity and your employees’. As a creative leader, encourage exercises that aren’t always focused on solving work problems, but rather coming together as an engaged business unit. Allow each team member to contribute freely to discussions. Enable your team to learn beyond the walls of your everyday environment and geographies, and expand your community beyond your traditional networks.
- Inspire your trusted team to truly soar.
People respond to leaders they trust, and will go to great lengths to contribute to companies that make them feel accountable yet appreciated. Why? This combination generates a safe, stable work environment that is empowering. It allows employees to take calculated risks without fear of ostracism, to be genuine in their motivations and actions, and to understand they are working with a new genre of authentic leaders — not for them — in a spirit of collaboration.
In her book “How to Get More Engaged at Work and Start Liking Your Job,” author Laura Garnett states, “Loving work is seen as an ideal that few can achieve, but those who do are the ones who have truly won the lottery of life.” Engage and empower to break the traditional leadership persona and integrate purposeful actions that generate leadership excellence through engagement and empowerment, you’ll find that both you and your employees have hit the jackpot.
Karen Fenaroli leverages 25+ years of CEO tenure, executive search consulting, and leadership experience to help high-growth businesses identify and evaluate critical board member and executive placements. As the most recognized expert and aggregator of diverse board talent in the country, Karen is sought after by the boardroom, the Fortune 1000, and private firms alike for direction and vision when implementing progressive methodologies that make it possible to achieve excellence and enhance the bottom line. Karen is the founder and CEO of Fenaroli & Associates. The firm’s U.S. presence consists of four offices located in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and Dallas.