The Navy – it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! Get technical training, see the world, earn educational benefits, and be part of the fight against global terrorism! These are just a few of the reasons people are motivated to join the Navy. The Navy experience varies from sailor to sailor causing some to leave the Navy after a few years and others to make it a career. After their duty station, the biggest influence on a sailor’s Navy experience is typically their leader and that person’s leadership style. Leadership styles in the Navy can be compared to a Clint Eastwood movie; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Generally when a Sailor or Navy veteran is asked who their best leader was, it won’t take them much time to identify the good. Similarly, when ask who their worst Navy leader was, they can identify the bad almost immediately. Then there are those sailors who have experienced the ugly Navy leader. These are sailor’s who have survived bosses whose leadership styles are so toxic, the leader is often relieved from their position.
What leads to these people in authority to act the way they do, whether good, bad, or ugly? It has been suggested that a leaders inner motives, combined with their competencies, drives leadership style. The leader chooses their leadership style to help them best achieve their motives. This article explores what motivates one subsection of the military, naval leaders, and how that motivation influences the specific leadership style or styles they use.
Honor, Courage, and Commitment
All sailors are required to know and expected to live the Navy’s Core Values of “Honor, Courage, and Commitment.” Honor requires truthfulness, honesty, integrity, respect for others, knowing right from wrong, and acting in an ethical manner. Courage is the personal and moral fortitude to do what is right whether facing anything from enemy fire to a temptation. Commitment means staying the course regarding the oath to ‘defend and protect,’ personal behavior, technical skills, and respect for others. The core values give all sailors the fortitude to fulfill their duty to their followers and their country.
These core values were not arbitrarily arrived at. Being honest was rated the top characteristic of admired leaders in repeated studies. Even though the studies were conducted with non-military personnel, courage was also ranked high. These values drive commitment and without commitment, a leader’s credibility diminishes.
Navy Leadership Training
The Navy has long recognized that leadership styles and skill levels have an impact on mission accomplishment, retention, and morale. For years, the Navy has had the Naval Leadership Continuum which provides career-long leadership training from E-4 to the flag officer level. The top three leaders of any Navy command are expected to attend leadership training at the commanding officer, executive officer, or command master chief level as appropriate. Navy leadership training is not only for senior leaders but is also targeted at far more junior personnel. Navy leadership training has such a good reputation Forbes magazine reported that many of the top corporations in the nation have studied it “…to see what they can learn and adapt from the Navy, to weave into their own cultures of leadership learning and development.”
Sounds good, right? Despite the majority of Navy leaders who uphold the highest traditions of our nation, other Navy leaders continue to make headlines for leadership failures. Regrettably, these incidents greatly damage the leader’s career and normally reflect poorly on his or her family, service, and country. What motivates these leaders to stray from the sound leadership principles which they have been taught? And can their leadership style predict hidden motivations?
In reality, it is difficult to know what truly motivates an individual, but with most leaders there are indications of what motivates them. Going back to Clint Eastwood’s outline, let’s look at some well-known naval leaders, their leadership styles, and what may have motivated them.
While stationed on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon in the 1990s, I was fortunate enough to serve with two great naval leaders, General Peter Pace, USMC, and Admiral Vernon Clark, USN. At the time, they were both three-star flag officers and served in key positions on the staff. Both were strategic thinkers with stellar reputations as intelligent, honest, hard working, and selfless leaders who cared strongly not only for the mission but for their people. There was never a question that both men loved their country and were ready to do whatever needed to be done to get the mission accomplished. Their motivation was to serve not only their leaders and followers but their country and fellow countrymen.
Both of these gentlemen had similar leadership styles – a combination of servant leadership and transformational leadership. Servant leadership has been described as a style where the leader places others at the center instead of themselves and who view their task as serving others. A transformational leadership style is evident when the leader dismisses using their position or rank to get something done and “…instead attempts to motivate and mobilize followers by persuading them to take ownership of their roles in a more grand mission that is shared by all members of the organization.” There are some who would suggest these leadership styles are “touchy-feely” or not goal-oriented enough, but this is not the case. It should be noted that both these men were fiercely dedicated to the mission of national defense and their leadership style prompted others to emulate that dedication to the mission despite danger, family separation, low pay, and difficult living conditions. These two exemplary leaders each had 30+ years of service to their country. Through these years, there were countless examples of actions that personified the type of leader they were. An example from each helps to show their true colors.
Admiral Clark continued to excel after his tour on the Joint Staff and rose to become the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the Navy’s top position, in July 2000. A quick review of his CNO guidance to his leaders demonstrates his commitment to the mission and to his people.
Winning the Global War on Terrorism is our number one priority… Last year I told you I wanted every leader to be evaluated on two things, their commitment to the growth and development of their people and above all to mission accomplishment…I want each of you to understand that mission accomplishment means both warfighting effectiveness and resourcefulness. It has been said that great leaders do the right thing, and great managers do things right—we need to do both…People remain at the heart of all we do; they are capital assets in our Navy. We have invested heavily to do what is right for our people. As we look to the future, we will build on the impressive progress we have made in recruiting, assigning, and retaining our military and civilian professionals. "Growth and development" is our byline and I expect every leader to be deeply involved in developing their shipmates. Active leadership is making it happen today and will do so in 2003.
Admiral Clark didn’t just talk the leadership talk – he walked the walk. In January 2002, he traveled half way around the world to reenlist sailors onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. His words following the ceremony demonstrated his commitment to his sailors, “I came out here to look you in the eye, and tell you something that I couldn't tell you if I just sent you a message. I came out here to look at you and tell you that the American people are so proud of what you're doing.”
General Pace also was clear in what he thought was important – the sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen that he led in the nation’s highest military position. In 2007, while serving as the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), he was told that he would not be renominated for the CJCS position. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested to Pace that he voluntarily retire to reduce awkwardness with the Bush Administration. He refused. After a speech at the Joint Forces Staff College, he was asked why he did not voluntarily step down.
“I said I could not do it for one very fundamental reason, and that is that ‘Pfc. Pace’ in Baghdad should not think ever that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield,” he said. Out of his sense of leadership, he could not even consider the idea, Pace said. Therefore, he did not submit his retirement papers until after it became publicly known that he was not going to be renominated. “The other piece for me personally was that some 40 years ago I left some guys on the battlefield in Vietnam who lost their lives following Second Lieutenant Pace,” he said. “I promised myself then that I will serve this country until I was no longer needed. I need to be told that I’m done. I’ve been told I’m done.”
Both Clark and Pace were motivated by love for country, their countrymen, and those they led. Their leadership styles clearly reflected and promoted achievement of their motives.
Not all successful military officers are necessarily good leaders. Most career officers have seen leaders “that eat their young” and wondered how it happens when a poor leader gets promoted or put into a position of power. Retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Mark Johnson noted, “Anyone can try to impress and fool the boss and peers and actually be successful doing it…But the true test, the true mark of your respect and character comes from below, not above.” What motivates this negative type of leadership style could range from anything from insecurity to over-confidence. An interesting case is that of Admiral Earnest J. King, who some consider one of the greatest Naval heroes of the 20th century.
Admiral King served as both the Commander in Chief and the Chief of Naval Operations in World War II. He was an extraordinarily intelligent risk-taker who quickly climbed the ranks after graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. In a biography of King, Thomas Buell noted his primary motivation, “King had but one aim in his life during his first forty years of naval service; to become the Chief of Naval Operations…He made no secret of it. He would tell anyone who would listen…”
As his primary motivation was self-interest, it is not surprising to find that many subordinates found his leadership style abrasive and uncompromising. As the Navy Commander in Chief, King worked his staff to the point where there were illnesses including heart attacks and even a suicide. One officer who worked for King reported he did not tolerate errors and that “Censure was swift, devastating, and before a cloud of witnesses.” Another officer noted that filled rooms would clear out when he entered, “No one seemed to want to be where King was.”
Admiral King was an extraordinarily successful naval officer who contributed to the Navy mission, but his brusque leadership style was clearly not appreciated by his Sailors. It is interesting to ponder if King’s abrasive leadership style would have been tolerated in today’s environment where command climate is a consideration. As King’s motivation to become Chief of Naval Operations was so strong, today he may have very well adapted his leadership style into something more acceptable.
It is disturbing that 39 senior Navy leaders were relieved for professional or personal incidents or indiscretions in 2011. Equally concerning is so far in 2012, 26 senior Navy leaders have been fired. Sexual harassment, hazing, drunk driving, adultery, incompetence, inappropriate relationships, cruelty, and maltreatment are some of the behaviors that these leaders were fired for. It is unlikely that these leaders intentionally wanted to end their careers in disgrace. What was their motivation for this poor leadership behavior? Each of these leaders was required to go through leadership training before they took their positions – training that reinforced that any of these behaviors would most likely lead to dismissal for cause. Training that also highlighted the difficult spot that this type of dismissal put their family, their command, their Navy, and their country in.
Possible motives were personal gain, sexual gratification, and a quest for power. Other contributors included stupidity and poor judgment. These motivations contrast sharply against motivations such as service to country, service to fellow service members, and mission accomplishment. When a leader is committed and motivated to their mission and their people, they intentionally avoid situations that encourage or facilitate poor decision making.
Although less than one percent of commanding officers are relieved each year, it would be wise to remember these are only the ones who were caught and reported. How many sailors are out there trying to hold on and waiting for a transfer date for their boss or themselves? Besides the personal embarrassment to the leader and the Navy, there are significant costs to the taxpayer for these leadership failures. One of the primary symptoms of dysfunctional leadership behavior is lower productivity due to low morale. Gallup estimates it can cost an organization approximately 1/3 of its payroll cost. Additionally, retention can be negatively affected resulting in increased costs for the Navy. Then there is the obvious cost of having to find and train qualified reliefs for those who are dismissed.
One solution may be to go through these cases and analyze what were the motives of the leader that prompted the incident or incidents that ended their careers? When we understand one’s motives, we can better understand their behavior. And could an analysis of leadership styles help to predict poor behavior? If so, who would be best to conduct an analysis of leadership styles?
A study on destructive leadership behavior in the Swedish military was recently completed which could have bearing on this problem. The study provided a survey to subordinates of military leaders and asked them to answer “How well do the following statements fit with regard to your immediate supervisor/commander?” Twenty statements were rated including: uses threats to get their way, has violent tendencies, put’s own needs ahead of the group, gives unclear instructions, etc. The survey could be completed in a short time and the results proved statistically reliable. This instrument also fits nicely into a 360-degree evaluation. Although some officers and senior enlisted would be threatened by a system such as this, those leaders who have the right motives and right leadership styles should welcome one. As Lt. Col. Mark Johnson noted it is easy to trick your leaders and peers into thinking you are a great leader. It is not so easy to trick your subordinates – our service members are smart and know a good leader when they see one.
Personal motivations do impact leadership styles for the simple reason that in order to get what they want people naturally adopt those characteristics that will help them achieve their goal. When motivations fall outside of the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment, leadership styles also fall outside of the acceptable boundaries the Navy has tried to instill not only through its leadership training but culture as well.
About the author:
Captain Jeanne McDonnell (ret.) served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years. Command assignments included Naval Support Activity Norfolk, Naval Administrative Command, and Transient Personnel Unit Norfolk. She also served in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff and Navy Staff. Jeanne has a Masters Degree in Education from Old Dominion University and another in Military Studies from U.S. Marine Corps University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Strategic Leadership at Regent University.
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 Brusman, Maynard. "Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Styles - Leaders Inner Motivations." EzineArticles. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Aug 2012.
 Harmon, C. "The US Navy Core Values - Honor, Courage and Commitment." EzineArticles. n.d. n. page. Web. 24 Aug. 2012.
 Kouzes, J. and Posner, B. (2010). The truth about leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
 Saslow, S. "Inside The U.S. Navy’s Leadership School." Forbes Magazine. 27 04 1210: n. page. Web. 25 Aug. 2012.
 Kouzes, J. and Posner, B. The Truth about Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010. 138. Print.
 Phillips, Donald. Lincoln on Leadership. New York, NY: Business Plus, 1992. 172. Print.
 Clark, Vernon. "CNO Guidance for 2003." Global Security. Global Security, 24 January 2003. Web. 25 Aug 2012.
 Clark, Vernon. United States. U.S. Navy . All Hands Call aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). 2002. Web. <http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/clark/speeches/clark-tr020115.txt>.
 Garamone, Jim. "Pace Pledges His Best Through End of Term." American Forces Press Service [Norfolk, VA] 15 June 2007, n. pag. Web. 25 Aug. 2012.
 Johnson, Mark. Lessons in Leadership: Straight Talk from a Green Beret. Dallas, TX: Brown Books Publishing Company, 2005. 111. Print.
 Buell, Thomas. Master of Sea Power. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1980. xx. Print.
 Ibid., pg 91.
 Ibid., pg 232.
 "Commanding officer, XO and senior enlisted firings." Navy Times [Springfield, VA] 3 July 2012, Web. 22 Aug. 2012. <http://www.navytimes.com/news/2012/07/navy-2012-co-xo-cmc-firings-list/>.
 Tavanti, Marco. "Managing Toxic Leaders: Dysfunctional Patterns." BEPRESS.Com. DePaul University, Jun 2011. Web. 26 Aug 2012.
 Gerry Larsson, Maria Fors Brandebo, Sofia Nilsson, (2012),"Destrudo-L: Development of a short scale designed to measure destructive leadership behaviours in a military context," Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol.33 Iss: 4 pp. 383 - 400
 Johnson, Mark. Lessons in Leadership: Straight Talk from a Green Beret. Dallas, TX: Brown Books Publishing Company, 2005. 111. Print.
The Navy – it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! Get technical training, see the world, earn educational benefits, and be part of the fight against global terrorism! These are just a few of the reasons people are motivated to join the Navy. The Navy experience varies from sailor to sailor causing some to leave the Navy after a few years and others to make it a career. After their duty sJeanne M. McDonnell Articles
One Leaders Perspective
If you study the subject of leadership at one of our fine educational institutions or read many books on the subject of leadership, you will eventually come across the term “contingency theory” or situational leadership. In the past, most researchers believed in a “one best way” or universal approach to leadership. Many also held the opinion that leaders were those who simply had the “right stuff” to lead others. This right stuff was defined as commitment, strength, vision and often charisma. Of course, one hundred years ago many assumed that great leaders were simply “born” to lead and the “right stuff” was unavailable to others! Within the past 40 years, two avid supporters of the best way theory or universal leadership approach have been Robert Blake and Jane Moulton. Their books, training programs and articles have taught that a single leadership style is the right approach for all situations.
Blake and Moulton created a two-dimensional “managerial grid” that has become a classic way to diagram the best way or universal approach model. This grid diagrams two basic dimensions of an effective leader. They are the concern for results (task) and concern for people. This managerial grid model has a numerical rating for each cell depending on the degree or amount of concern a manager demonstrates for results and for people. These two “concerns” are considered to be independent of each other. The ideal is considered a 9.9-oriented manager who integrates a high concern for both the task and people to produce outstanding performance. Apparently, unlike physical beauty or gymnastic skill, leadership is incapable of achieving a perfect 10! The original grid concept appeared in 1961 and has been modified into the 1990’s. In a survey performed by the National Industrial Conference Board, this grid was mentioned as one of the most frequently identified behavioral science approaches to management.
However, as other researchers studied farther, a different model was developed that viewed good leadership as contingent upon the given situation or environment. The best way or universal model was criticized by those who recognized that good leadership often adapts with the situation. Widely varying circumstances typically require different qualities of leadership. These became known as contingency theories. Two respected researchers by the names of Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard established a contingency theory known as situational leadership. They also created a managerial grid similar to Blake and Molton, since two of its dimensions also included results (tasks) and people.
Paul Hersey then merged the relationship between behavior tasks and people into a four-cell chart that reveals four distinct leadership styles… directing (telling)… coaching (selling)…supporting (participating) and delegating. Hersey and Blanchard believe a manager may effectively use any of the four styles depending on the “readiness level” or “maturity” of the subordinates (Hersey, 1984). For example, a manager whose subordinates are unable and unwilling to do a good job would demonstrate leadership by directing (telling) them what and how to do the task. So according to this theory when the leader is demonstrating a directing(telling) leadership style, they are providing high direction and low support.
However, this contingency theory has also been under assault by researchers. Continued studies have cast doubts on its validity. As Bolman and Deal point out, “If, for example, managers give unwilling and unable subordinates high direction and low support, what would cause their motivation to improve?” Other problems with this theory include no task structure variables. Also, the concept of follower “maturity” is not well defined and is therefore open to interpretation. Many other contingency theories have arisen and all have supporters and detractors about either the relevance or quality of research associated with them. Leadership thinker James O’Toole opines, “Yet, evidence mounts that contingency, or situational, leadership is ineffective. All around we see the signs of failure: the depressing social and organizational indicators that point to the inability of leaders to bring about constructive change.” So the debate continues regarding the “best way theory” and various “contingency” theories. There is also presently a global leadership (GLOBE) project in progress since 1993. It involves a sampling of over 15,000 leaders from 779 organizations in 62 various cultures from around the globe. It enlists the help of 170 co-investigators to help in the research. The goal of the project is to find out what really makes for effective leadership.http://mgmt3.ucalgary.ca/web/globe.nsf/pages/publications
It is for these reasons that Bolman and Deal offer yet a different approach to leadership they call reframing leadership. They offer four images of leadership that include structural, human resource, political and symbolic viewpoints. Each of these images potentially extend effective or ineffective leadership styles! They believe that “each of the frames offers a distinctive image of the leadership process. Depending on leader and circumstance, each can lead to compelling and constructive leadership, but none is right for all times and seasons.”
So what is the conclusion? Is there a universal or one best way approach to leadership? Or is the best approach contingent upon the present situation? I am afraid that like most areas of leadership research, this subject will be open to debate and confusion for some time to come. This is just one example of why many people find the subject of leadership a complex and perplexing study. Sometimes it is hard to get most researchers to agree to a definition of what “leadership” actually is! But we should not allow the confusion and inconclusive research to frustrate us in our attempt to practice it in our daily lives.
Regarding the “one best way” or universal theory verses the contingency theories; we need to understand a basic truth. Yes, leadership does require different approaches and methods for different situations. We must resist the temptation to view leadership in a narrow and oversimplified way. Allow me to provide some examples. A leader may need to use a different set of skills to motivate individuals who have “tenure” or are protected by a union in contrast to temporary or part time employees. Often leaders may use different traits when working in the private sector when compared to the public sector. The leadership skills needed to motivate followers who are unskilled and alienated are different than for a group who are highly skilled and deeply motivated. Because of cultural differences, the role of police chief may require different leadership skills in the United States than in China. Exhibiting leadership to a group of executives is often different than leading the mailroom staff. Recently I had a conversation with a prominent social advocate and political leader in the state of New Jersey. She told me one of the most difficult tasks she has ever encountered was to attempt to build a consensus among a room full of other influential leaders and executives. This situation called upon her to use a unique set of leadership skills since they all wanted to be the most influential and to lead!
However, situational leadership has too often been used as an excuse for situation ethics. Some high-powered managers who have been given appropriate nicknames such as “chainsaw” or “the hatchet” have used the premise of situational leadership or contingency theory as an excuse for instant disposal of workers due to “losses” or an “economic downturn”. Yes, I realize and accept that there are times when the workforce absolutely must be reduced. Unfortunately the cycle of growth and contraction are part of the economic system we have in the western world. The question is how this worker reduction is accomplished and how these individuals are treated. Many of these workers were highly committed people who did everything that was asked of them! Some have worked for decades under one new CEO after another, who immediately incorporated their own new “priority of the month club”. Many of these people endured years of personal career sacrifice and additional workload only to be disposed of when “chainsaw” decided to let another group of “unessential” personnel go! Perhaps what is most pathetic is what occurs when the myopic corporate board finally decides its time to let “chainsaw” go because he or she has devastated the once proud organization and its culture. It is usually done with a million-dollar “severance agreement” and a plaque for appreciation of “dedicated” service.
Does the “one best way” or universal approach have any application? It absolutely does and this question brings us to an important subject regarding truly effective leadership. Researcher Gary Yukl makes the following comment about the “one best way” or universal model created by Blake and Mouton. He states, “The universal feature of their theory is the value orientation used by a high-high manager to select appropriate behavior, not a particular pattern of high-high behavior that is applied automatically in all situations.” Yukl is correctly stating here that he believes the universal aspect of Blake and Moulton’s theory relates to the values behavior of the leader and not necessarily to the skills or traits a leader may use. There is always a best way to treat people under any circumstance. That is with respect, fairness and dignity.
For example, even if you must reprimand or correct an indignant worker you can do it privately and respectfully. There is always a “best way” to handle a coworker if they are being “let go” due to poor economic circumstances or even incompetence. That is with compassion and a sincere interest in their future. Even if you must change an existing culture or ask others to sacrifice important gains, you can do it with a deep sense of appreciation for their past efforts and commitment to the organization. In the same vein, the “best way” is to always encourage and motivate others from the heart whether they are able, unable, willing or unwilling to do a task! The same thing applies to learning. The best way for a leader to encourage a “learning organization” is to promote the value of knowledge and reward learning in any situation or environment. Yes, some leadership behaviors are universal because they are built upon an ethical foundation of respect and high regard for people! Why are these values universal? Because smart leaders know that people are their greatest natural resource and people treated with dignity, care and genuine concern are the most productive. People who are properly motivated, encouraged, trained and appreciated will far out perform others who are disrespected, discouraged, neglected or abused. In the 21st century, this is the competitive edge.
In conclusion, the “best way” or universal aspect of leadership theory is valid in regards to right values and ethics. People should never be viewed as disposable or unimportant. An effective leader must treat all employees or followers with the heartfelt values reflected in the “golden rule”, including respect, dignity and a genuine concern for the individual. This requires an investment in time and resources, even if they are limited. But this is an investment in your most powerful asset…your people! Do it right and it pays large dividends by engendering a healthy culture, increased productivity and higher levels of commitment.
Conversely, leadership does require different approaches, methods, skills and tasks for different situations. We must resist the temptation to view leadership in a narrow and oversimplified way. Yes, these approaches, skills and tasks are indeed contingent upon the present situation the leader experiences. But, understanding this legitimate need for situational leadership should never be used as a motive or excuse to mistreat or casually discard other people. Today organizations must exist to serve their stakeholders, and that not only includes their customers, but also their employees. Any organization today that doesn’t get this essential point may ultimately have their product or service displayed in the Smithsonian Institute…right next to buggy whip manufacturers!
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About the author:
Greg has over 20 years of sales and marketing experience within the electrical distribution industry. Some of his positions have included being a National Sales Manager, National Marketing Manager and for the past 9 years that of Regional Sales Manager. He also has extensive experience in public speaking and has written articles for various publications. In August of 2000, Greg completed his studies for a Master of Arts degree in Leadership from Bellevue University. He is the founder of weLEAD Incorporated.
Blake, R. and Mouton, J.S., (1969) Building a Dynamic Corporation Through Grid Organizational Development.
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Blake, R and Mouton, J.S, (1985) Managerial Grid III. Houston, Tx., Gulf
Bolman, L. and Deal, T., (1977) Reframing Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers
Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K.H., (1977) The Management of Organizational Behavior (3rd ed.), Upper Saddle River:
N.J., Prentice Hall
O’Toole, J. (1995) Leading Change – Overcoming the Ideology of Comfort and the Tyranny of Custom
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers
Yukl, G. (1998) Leadership in Organizations (4th ed.), Upper Saddle River: N.J., Prentice Hall
One Leaders Perspective If you study the subject of leadership at one of our fine educational institutions or read many books on the subject of leadership, you will eventually come across the term “contingency theory” or situational leadershipArticles
Many of us grew up watching teenage movies with themes based on the popularity of high school cheerleaders, beauty queens, and good-looking star athletes. These were the “beautiful people” that everyone admired and wanted to have as friends. Of course many times these popular teenagers were actually self-centered, insensitive, and very superficial. Before the end of the movie the true character of these idols was exposed. The exposure usually came with the triumphant recognition by the students of a timid, shy, mousy teenager who really possessed the true character.
Stephen Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, identifies a change that has taken place in America over the past fifty to seventy-five years. For the first 150 years in America the success literature focused on what he calls the “character ethic.” Individuals living their lives based on ethical principles such as honesty, integrity and humility characterized this earlier period. Around World War I there began a gradual shift from an emphasis on character to an emphasis on personality. This shift was toward what Stephen Covey calls the “personality ethic.” It places emphasis on outward appearance rather than character. It emphasizes “appearing to be” rather than “actually being.” 4
David Riesman, in his book The Lonely Crowd, says that character is developed in the home and then dispersed into society through work, play, politics and various activities of society. 7 Riesman recognizes that the emphasis on character that was dominant in America in the nineteenth century has gradually been replaced. Today the success literature emphasizes techniques more than character. Communication techniques, public relations techniques and dressing for success are major themes today.
Recently, a friend of mine shared her experiences about an employee who was a true diamond in the rough. Prior to returning to the work force full-time, she was working a few hours each week as a consultant to several small businesses. Entering a client’s business one day, she observed that the whole office was in an uproar. The problem was that on the day before, the owner had hired a person we’ll call Mary, who appeared in short shorts and looked like she had just left an all night bar. Because the owner was short handed and desperately needed help, he hired Mary on the spot and put her to work immediately.
My friend soon came to depend a great deal on Mary to assist her. Mary was always eager to learn and do things the right way. As my friend spent more time with Mary, she began to see that Mary had real character built on a strong work ethic. Unfortunately, like the greater part of an iceberg, this character was hidden “under water” from the casual viewer, and only the “tip of the iceberg” was visible to others. Mary was abrasive at times and lacked many social skills.
Stephen Covey uses the iceberg as a metaphor to explain the relationship between personality and character. 4 Covey explains that personality is like the tip of an iceberg—the part that people see or come in contact with first. In teenage movies, and many times in real life, we judge people by their physical beauty or their possessions. The tip of the iceberg symbolizes all these traits that are immediately visible.
The first time that my acquaintance suggested to Mary that she continue her education at the local college, Mary was horrified at the suggestion and said it was something that she could never do. No one in her family had ever graduated from college. Mary had been scripted by what Stephen Covey calls the “social mirror.” Each of us tends to form the perception of our self from our surroundings and the opinions, perceptions, and paradigms of others. How we perceive ourselves is often very distorted and out of proportion. 4
You can see someone’s outward beauty, but you can’t physically see character. Character is “below the surface.” People with character are honest and sincere in their relationships. They demonstrate integrity daily by standing up for what they believe, and they know what is right and what is wrong. They treat people fairly. They live the six “pillars of character,” which are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. 2
The “character ethic” is based on such pillars, and principles such as sincerity, temperance, humility, courage, integrity, honesty, industry, and thrift. These principles cannot be violated if an individual wishes to be truly successful. 3 True success goes beyond financial success. This character, symbolized by the larger portion of the iceberg submerged under the water, was still extant in 1933 during the Great Depression. Many Americans were without work and lacked any means of supporting their families. President Roosevelt implemented an emergency assistance program to help these individuals. Written into the law was the requirement that assistance be given in cash. It was hoped that by giving assistance in cash, officials would be able to convince these proud men, who were industrious, to accept government help. 1 How times have changed!
Some people have a tremendous strength of character but it is hidden behind a personality or appearance that is not acceptable. How often do we ignore such people or “write them off” immediately as failures? We need to prepare ourselves to recognize when a character base is strong enough to overcome the lack of an acceptable personality or image, and give such people support and encouragement until they are able to acquire the necessary social skills to function in healthy personal and business relationships.
I was once so introverted and awkward that one of my teachers told me I would never be a public speaker. A manager once painted a mental picture of me working in an office by myself for the rest of my life, with someone sliding a tray of food under the door at lunchtime. I carried these images, derived from the social mirror, in my head for many years. I accepted them as reality—“the way things are.” Thanks to the help and encouragement from many people over the years, I came to recognize that my self-concept was not totally accurate—and certainly not predetermined. I discovered that I could be proactive and change my social skills over time. Today I speak regularly before audiences of hundreds of people and have taught communication and leadership courses at the college level for many years.
Some time passed and my friend had been working full time at another location for about a year when a position came open in her department. She immediately thought of Mary. Forgotten was her lack of acceptable social skills and her unprofessional dress and language. What was remembered was the fact that Mary was a dedicated employee who worked very hard, was very honest, and always eager to learn. As brusque as Mary could be at times, she was never mean or spiteful or cruel to anyone. She did not have a winning personality, but she did have a lot of character.
My friend hired Mary. When Mary came to work for the department, the response was worse than it had been at the first business where she had worked. Employees would come to my friend and say, “Did you hear what she just said?” “I can’t believe you hired her!” One manager even said Mary needed to be talked to about the way she conducted herself when men came in the office. However, there was never a single complaint about her work or her work ethic—only her social skills.
Within a year Mary had won over the office staff just as she had won my friend. They too began to recognize the solid character underneath the unsuitable social interaction. People in the office began to informally help Mary become more aware of her inappropriate dress and language. Mary was also urged to continue her education. She finally developed enough confidence to enroll at the local junior college. Once she saw that she was an “A” student, she decided to continue her education and pursue a management degree at the local university.
Last May my friend attended graduation ceremonies and watched Mary graduate magna cum laude! Over the past eight years, Mary has developed a winning personality, which complements her outstanding character. Because of her hard work, dedication, and work at self-improvement, Mary has moved into a professional position within her organization and is considered a very valuable employee.
Many times we are guilty of “selective perception.” When we first meet someone, we are often guilty of judging the value or worth of the person based on what we immediately see—the “tip of the iceberg.” Often the halo effect causes us to make a determination about the person we have met based on a single characteristic, such as their looks or their speech. 6 The shortcuts we use to judge others may keep us from opportunities to help others to grow and mature. How many people appear to be “losers” at first, but turn out to be real “winners” once we get to know them? Judging on outward appearance and first impressions can keep us from developing personal and professional relationships that would be very fulfilling and beneficial.
Personality is unique to each individual. Some people have very flawed personalities, yet under the surface they have a magnificent character. Often it takes time to discover this since it is “below the surface.” My personal experience tells me that a person with a flawed personality and strong character is usually easier to assist than a person with a winning personality and a flawed character!
Anybody can lead perfect people. Servant leadership organizations believe that a person that is immature, stumbling and inept is capable of greatthings when wisely led. As Robert Greenleaf said, “The secret of institution building is to be able to weld a team of such people by lifting them up to grow taller than they would otherwise be.” 5
As leaders, we are in the business of “growing people.” We must not overlook those who may lack certain social skills, but have character. Once such a person is worked with, there is no limit to what such a person can contribute to the organization.
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Dr. J. Howard Baker is Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Dr. Baker has been a Franklin Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People certified facilitator for eight years, and has served the University of Texas at Tyler as their facilitator for four years. During the summer he offers a graduate and undergraduate course at U. T. Tyler in personal and organizational leadership. He holds a B.S. in Management from Samford University, a Master of Accounting (MAcc) from the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. in Information Systems from the University of Texas at Arlington.
1. Bernstein, I. (1985). A Caring Society: The New Deal, the Worker, and the Great Depression. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
2. Character Counts! Retrieved July 28, 2001 from http://www.newciv.org/ncn/eric/character.html
3. Character Ethic Vs. Personality Ethic. Retrieved July 28, 2001 from http://www.ryu.com/mascio/7habits/Chicago/sld017.htm
4. Covey, Stephen R (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster.
5. Greenleaf, Robert K. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. New York: Paulist Press, 1977.
6. Frequently Used Shortcuts in Judging Others. Retrieved July 27, 2001 from http://mars.acnet.wnec.edu/~achelte/obl/lprob03/tsld009.htm
7. Riesman, David (1974). The Lonely Crowd. Clinton, Massachusetts: The Colonial Press, Inc.
Many of us grew up watching teenage movies with themes based on the popularity of high school cheerleaders, beauty queens, and good-looking star athletes. These were the “beautiful people” that everyone admired and wanted to have as friends. Of course many times these popular teenagers were actually self-centered, insensitive, and very superficial. Before the end of the movie the tJ. Howard Baker Articles
Authentic leadership is a concept both highly revolutionary and extremely practical. It values personal virtue above selfish interests and emphasizes the importance of a leader’s words matching their actions. So why are there so many critics of a leadership style that has as its very foundation a focus on morality? Bill George, a senior fellow at the Harvard Business School and author of Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets of Lasting Value and True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, introduced authentic leadership in 2003 in the wake of such corporate scandals as Enron, WorldComm, Tyco, and Freddie Mac. George offered the antidote to morally-challenged corporate leaders, authentic leadership.
As it happens with innovative concepts that provide answers to complex moral questions, critics of this theory soon emerged objecting almost entirely based on the word “authentic.” After all, what does it really mean to be “authentic?” Following an exhaustive dictionary and thesaurus evaluation, the following represent the most common synonyms: genuine, real, true veritable, reliable, dependable, trustworthy, authoritative, faithful. So again, I ask, why the issue with George’s use of the word “authentic” in describing leadership? Answer: key critics of authentic leadership tend to conflate the word “authentic” with the impulse individuals possess to say or do everything on their minds.
However, demonstrating sound judgment in knowing when to say or not say what’s on your mind isn’t inauthentic, it’s wise. But what are the keys to seeking an authentic leadership style? Though not a comprehensive list of authentic leadership qualities, the following represent tangible methods any aspiring authentic leader can employ.
Self-regulation is one of the foremost keys to developing this leadership style. Embracing one’s unique personality and experiences is as authentic as demonstrating self-control when dealing with personal relationships. Ultimately, both qualities begin with effective self-evaluation.
Self-evaluation is extremely difficult but mastering such a discipline is a key component to authentic leadership. The process of self-evaluation benefits both the individual personally and the organization as a whole.
Self-evaluation alone does not a good leader make. Leaders need people, good people, people upon whom they can rely for advice and various levels of support. The best authentic-leaders create an inner circle comprising of individuals with skills that fill gaps in their leadership styles and challenge them to strive for a better sense of purpose.
Personal Values and Ethics
Possessing a genuine sense of personal values and principles will help the authentic leader better guide both the process of self-evaluation, but also interaction with other individuals within the organization. They provide the moral compass with which to follow when no one else is looking and the framework through which all decisions are made.
Authentic leadership is NOT a filterless representation of what you really think. That’s called stupidity. On the contrary, this style of leadership requires character, hard work, reflection, and a lot of self-control. Employed correctly, authentic leadership provides a moral basis for adapting one’s leadership style to any challenge, and a rich environment in which other aspiring leaders can grow.
Authentic leadership is a concept both highly revolutionary and extremely practical. It values personal virtue above selfish interests and emphasizes the importance of a leader’s words matching their actions. So why are there so many critics of a leadership style that has as its very foundation a focus on morality? Bill George, a senior fellow at the Harvard Business School and author oKyle Kramer Articles
On June 18,1940, Winston Churchill, the newly elected British Prime minister, addressed the House of Commons regarding the Battle of France and the impending Battle of Britain. The United States would not enter into the war for another six months, leaving Britain to stand alone against the Nazi war machine. Churchill’s speech was not only intended to address the House, but was also broadcast on the BBC to the British public. Many have considered this to be one of the greatest speeches ever given in the English language. What is it about this speech that makes it so powerful?
The Great Visionary
In order to study the importance of this speech, we must study the events which had occurred leading up to it. Only two weeks prior to Churchill’s speech, the British navy, along with a fleet of private fishing boats, completed the evacuation of British, French and Commonwealth troops from Dunkirk before they were utterly crushed by the advancing Nazi forces. Only having held the office of Prime Minister for six weeks, Churchill needed to calm, inspire and motivate not only the British military, but the people as well. So as we look at the speech, I will attempt to break down the speech into some key elements he used to achieve his goal.
Throughout most of the 36 minute speech, Churchill spoke very directly and very logically about the events in France. He opens the speech by placing blame for the “colossal military disaster” (Churchill, 1940) squarely on the French High Command, but holds in a more subtle way, the House of Commons and the Parliament at fault as well. At the same time, he tells the British people that he does not want to dwell on this, but must look to the future. In fact he speaks of the future several times during the course of the speech. “Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future” (Churchill, 1940). To this he immediately follows up with facts and figures regarding the number of troops rescued from the shores of Dunkirk, including British, Canadian and French troops. In fact, during most of the speech he refers to facts and figures regarding their ability to defend the Island from any possibility of invasion. During the entire speech, Churchill always spoke in truthful yet positive terms, then telling the British people that it is business as usual, “Those who are not called up, or else are employed during the vast business of munitions production in all its branches-and their ramifications are innumerable-will serve their country best by remaining at their ordinary work until they receive their summons.” (Churchill, 1940). At its heart, one can see the British wartime slogan “Keep Calm and Chive On”. During his address, Churchill never tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the British people by diminishing the strength of the German military forces, but also insisting that Britain will prevail. When placing Churchill into the role of a modern business leader, Caroline Longstaffe writes “Churchill’s approach would be firstly to explain the current realities, then inspire the team by offering them a vision for how things could be, then tell them how to achieve this and finally mobilize them into action” (Longstaffe, 2005).
The Great Orator
Winston Churchill was a visionary leader, of that there is no doubt. To be a great leader, he also had to be a great communicator. He had not only a keen grasp of the English language, but understood how to deliver his message. If one looks at the final typed transcript of the speech and how it is setup, it is written in a blank verse format, with five-line paragraphs of indented type, “a form the Churchill Archives Center's director, Allen Packwood, compared to the Old Testament Book of Psalms, regarded by many literary scholars as one of the seminal influences, with Shakespeare, on Churchill's literary and rhetorical style” (Burns, 2010). One can read the words, but this does not compare to listening to Churchill himself give the speech. To listen to the tempo and rhythm he uses, perhaps calculated to calm the people. Even though this is dire news, it is given so as to not incite panic in the British people. One important thing to note as it pertains to leadership communication is that, like all of his speeches, he wrote this speech. Unlike modern politicians, there were no speech writers during this period. The words are his, and because of this, he believes his words and is sincere in his message. In order to convey a positive ethos, a leader must be sincere, using their own words, style and tone to convey their message, even if that message is not necessarily a good one.
A Man of Purpose
Sir Winston Churchill’s Finest Hour speech had vision, which he conveys to the House of Commons and the British people with a sincerity that all leaders should strive for. Along with those qualities, his speech also had purpose. In the final four sentences, Churchill states, “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour” (Churchill, 1940). He makes no bones about what failure means, but that if everyone does their part, the Empire will endure. Those future historians will look back and say that despite overwhelming odds, Britain prevailed. She prevailed because her people never lost hope, kept calm and chived on. All leaders, whether in the corporate world or the political arena, should aspire to this kind of honesty and sincerity.
Burns, John F. (2010, June 18) Seventy Years Later, Churchill's 'Finest Hour' Yields Insights. The New York Times, p A8(L).
Churchill, Winson (1940, June 18), Finest Hour Speech, Address to the House of Commons, London England
Longstaffe, Caroline (2005) Winston Churchill, a leader from history or an inspiration for the future? Industrial and Commercial Training 37(2/3), 80-83
On June 18,1940, Winston Churchill, the newly elected British Prime minister, addressed the House of Commons regarding the Battle of France and the impending Battle of Britain. The United States would not enter into the war for another six months, leaving Britain to stand alone against the Nazi war machine. Churchill’s speech was not only intended to address the House, but was also broadcastKevin Marosi Articles
As women progressively enter leadership roles and management positions in organizations that traditionally used to be held by men, many pose questions about leadership styles and gender.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly one of four chief executives and one out of twenty top-management positions in Fortune 500 corporations, are women. These statistics are only slightly higher than 20 years ago. (When the Boss is a Woman, 2008)
This statistic draws a question: what is the difference between a man and woman’s leadership style? A few of the most important and valuable leadership traits are: honesty, intelligence, work ethic, decisiveness, ambition, compassion, and creativeness. Is it possible that one could posses more of one trait depending solely on gender?
After history made its own mark on our present, women are no longer loved and valued for just being feminine. The modern-day female has to work as hard as males to deserve any type of respect or appreciation, but at the same time motherhood responsibilities stayed the same. Maybe those are the reasons why it is so difficult for women to make it all the way up political or corporate leadership ladders? Leaders must be tough enough to make difficult, bottom-line decisions that serve the overall needs of the organization.
Biologically females are more sensitive, emotional, and self-critical than men. Can the biological and psychological traits of women make a negative effect on their leadership style? Do women suffer from a lack of authority? Does a society have a cliché that women can’t be tough and fearless?
Women in Leadership and Communication Styles
The study of language and gender provides additional perspective on women’s leadership gaps. Robin Lakoff’s article titledWomen in Power from the New England Journal of Public Policy states: “Women have a different way of speaking from men. Women’s language is rife with such devices as mitigators (sort of, I think) and inessential qualities (really happy, so beautiful)”.
According to the American Psychological Association, a woman’s leadership style is more like mentoring and coaching, while a man’s style is centered around command and control. As a result, women are more likely to be transformational leaders, helping employees develop their skills and talents, motivating them, and coaching to be more creative. This approach can be very effective in today’s world, when costumer service becomes one of the most profitable types of business. At the same time, this kind of leadership style might not be very beneficial in traditional male settings such as military or organized sports.
Studies made by Alice Eagly in an article titled “The Leadership Styles of Women and Men” in Journal of Social Issues show that the difference between men and women leadership styles is small but significant. “Women exceeded men on three transformational scales: the attributes version of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, and individualized consideration. These findings suggest that female managers, more than male managers, manifest attributes that motivate their followers to feel respect and pride because of their association with them, showed optimism and excitement about future goals, and attempted to develop and mentor followers and attend to their individual needs. Women also exceeded men on the transactional scale of contingent reward. This finding suggests that female managers, more than male managers, give their followers reward for good performance.”
In contrast men exceeded women in transactional scales of active management by expectations and passive management by expectations. “These findings suggest that male managers, more than female managers, paid attention to their followers’ problems and mistakes, waited before problems became severe before attempting to solve them, and were absent and uninvolved at critical times.”
According to the Pew Research Center Social and Demographic surveys, women are more honest, compassionate, outgoing, and creative; all important traits those are a few of the most of effective leaders. So why are most of the leaders in modern America men? In one survey, the public cites gender discrimination, resistance to change, and of course “old-boys club” as the main reasons why women have less opportunities and more challenges to make their way up in organizations. Some of the respondents also mention women’s family responsibilities and their shortage of experience as detriments to a successful career. In the mean time the same research shows that 69 percent of respondents say that men and women are equally good leaders.
Alice Eagly, a Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University and let devotee of gender studies states:
“Even though the research found some differences in management style…the sex differences are small because the leader role itself carries a lot of weight in determining people's behavior. Women are in some senses better leaders than men but suffer the disadvantage of leadership roles having a masculine image, especially in some settings and at higher levels. Stripping organizational leadership of its masculine aura would allow psychologists to get a clearer picture of any true differences between men and women.”
As an answer to my question whether there is a difference between men and women’s leadership style is yes. Women leadership styles can be more effective and productive in today’s less hierarchical organizations, but in the mean time can destroy the traditional male setting in companies. A women’s psychological frame of mind can make them look less powerful than men; but in the meantime dismissing any candidate on the basis of gender not only denies opportunity to talented individuals but also can decrease the amount of genuine leaders in an organization.
Bunker, K. A. (2005, September/October). A Question of Leadership. LiA, 25, 14.
Eagly, A., & Johannesen-Schmidt, M. (2001, December). The Leadership Styles of Women and Men. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4), 781. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.
Laff, M. (2007, March). THE INVISIBLE WALL. T+D, 61(3), 32-38. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.
McKenna, M. (2007, Special Issue: Women). Women in Power. New England Journal of Public Policy, 22(1/2), 7-16. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.
When the Boss is a Women. (2006, March 22). APA Online. Retrieved May 29, 2009, from American Psychological Association Web site: http://Psycologymatters.org/womanboss.html
Men or Women: Who's Better Leader. (2008, August 25). PewResearch center publications. Retrieved May 29, 2009, from PewResearch Center Web site: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/932/men-or-women-whos-the-better-leader
About the author:
This article was written by Yulia Vinnytska. She is a Rasmussen College - Eagan, MN business degree student in her senior year.
*Image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net
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As women progressively enter leadership roles and management positions in organizations that traditionally used to be held by men, many pose questions about leadership styles and gender. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly one of four chief executives and one out of twenty top-management positions in Fortune 500 corporations, are women. These statiYulia Vinnytska Articles
Engagement. It’s the new business buzzword. It just sounds good coming off the tip of your tongue. What is it? Well, there are a lot of different interpretations of the definition of engagement, but there is one thing that most everyone agrees with: it’s a problem. While people may be struggling to figure out what the best definition of ‘engaged’ is, more people agree on what an actively disengaged employee is. According to Gallup Poll, an actively disengaged employee is, “unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers.” (Gallup) According to Gallup Poll results released for 2012, 24% of workers worldwide are actively disengaged. With statistics like that, it’s no wonder executives are scrambling to try and fix the engagement problem.
One common method to identify why employees are disengaged is to take a survey. Gallup Poll and other companies will happily take a company’s money to perform this service. However, I would propose to you that there are several potential flaws with this approach. First, by the time most executives get to the point of paying another company to perform a survey, they already know they have a problem. Second, performing a survey once may identify areas within the company that could be strengthened, but to see if a company is making any progress, the survey must be run over multiple years. Third, are the engagement plans. Once weak areas have been identified, management has to try and fix the problem. So they work with their employees to create engagement plans. This is where I have to take a pause. According to the National Business Research Institute, one of the most common employee complaints is being overworked (NBRII). If one of the causes of employee disengagement is overwork, then how is giving them more work in the form of engagement plans supposed to help fix things? This sure sounds like the catchphrase, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Next, there is a very tempting trap for managers to fall into, and that is improving scores instead of digging down into the true heart of the difficult issues that are the cause of poor engagement. Let’s face it, educating an employee on how to take the poll to increase their score is a whole lot easier of a way to show that you are making progress on engagement on paper.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that engagement polls are necessarily a bad thing. I will say that I think the expectations of many senior executive leadership are too high when it comes to these surveys. The Gallup Poll has been conducting engagement surveys for over 30 years. Many of the companies that are just now taking their survey for the first time have also been in business for that long or longer. How is the culture of a business, which is shaped and fostered by the executive leadership style over decades, supposed to change in just a couple years? Sure, executives are part of Gallup’s survey, but if they weren’t 100% engaged with their company’s business strategies, then they would have never made it to the positions they are in. The more senior the executive, the higher they tend to score. Scores begin to deteriorate the farther down the management chain you go, until finally you reach the employees, where it appears all of the engagement issues are occurring. The reality is the motivation of the executives giving the survey is not focused on the well-being of the employees. So if executives are engaged, and year after year we continue to see employees disengaged, maybe it’s time to change our focus.
Let’s start by looking at the executives who run the companies with the highest engagement scores. Stephen Cannon is the CEO for Mercedes Benz, who was ranked 94th in Forbes best 100 companies to work for this year. Stephen states, “We’ve been investing in programs to allow our leaders to create great places for our employees to work. Great organizations are all about people.” (Linkedin) In an interview with Paul Amos, CEO of Aflac, he discussed his basic employee principles in the Aflac Way handbook. “Everyone is important. No matter who walks through the door, whether it’s the man in overalls or a straw hat or the man in a $500 suit, everyone is treated equally.” (Faith&Leadership) Aflac is number 58 on Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for this year, and they have been on the list for the last 16 consecutive years. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and number 38 in this year’s Fortune list states the following: “It actually doesn’t matter what your core values are.” “What matters is that you have them and commit to them. And by committing to them, you’re willing to hire or fire based on them independent of actual job performance.” (Greatplacetowork) Last, Larry Page, CEO of Google and Fortune’s number one business to work for states the following; “My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society.” (Fortune)
What’s the common theme from these executives of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for, over and over again? People and core values. It’s no secret that business are in business to make money and increase shareholder value, but it’s how a business makes its money that effects employee engagement. If the employees of a company are treated as just a tool to increase stockholder value and like they are easily replaceable, then of course they will be disengaged. The bottom line is that it’s about trust; it’s about a culture that puts the employee and customer needs as the top business priority and it all starts from the top of a business, down. Employees need to have trust in their organizations to perform at their best, and CEO’s have to work on that trust from the top. If companies truly want to become great places to work, then they have to focus on their employees and their employee’s needs. Trust comes into play because a lot of what the employees need may seem counterproductive to increasing shareholder’s wealth. Better pay, more recognition, a balanced family-work life, flexible hours, are all things that can contribute to better engagement, but might hurt the bottom line of a company on paper.
By the time a company gets to the point of taking a survey, chances are they recognize that there is already a problem and that the current way of doing business just isn’t cutting it. This is when executive leadership engagement comes into play. I propose that the mission statement of a business is the place to start. This is nothing new or earth shattering, but it’s where I feel executives can get huge results from their company while maintaining a loyal workforce. Does the mission of the company have more of an employee and customer focus than money? If not, then maybe it’s time for a change. If it does, then maybe the business has strayed away from its core mission over the years and forgotten how important the employees are to that mission. How do CEO’s and executives learn what matters most to their employees? A survey might give them some clues, but are often expensive and time consuming. I propose that good old fashioned face-time is the best method. Take an interest in their well-being, and find out what would motivate them. It’s already been shown by many businesses who repeatedly made the top 100 places to work list that it can be done, and the results can be amazing. Take the leap of faith, together as executives and employees as one company and see what the results of true engagement can do.
*image courtesy of imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net
Worldwide, 13% of Employees Are Engaged at Work. Retrieved from
10 Things employees dislike most about their employers. Retrieved from
Mercedes-Benz CEO: Customer Experience is the Brand!! Retrieved from
Paul S. Amos: This is not who we are. Retrieved from
How Zappos Creates Happy Customers and Employees. Retrieved from
Larry Page: Google should be like a family. Retrieved from
Engagement. It’s the new business buzzword. It just sounds good coming off the tip of your tongue. What is it? Well, there are a lot of different interpretations of the definition of engagement, but there is one thing that most everyone agrees with: it’s a problem. While people may be struggling to figure out what the best definition of ‘engaged’ is, more people agree on what an activelSteven Madison Articles
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