“My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” – General Montgomery
While sitting at a park today, I began watching three ducks as they tasseled in the river nearby. They splashed in the water, glided on the top and swam around for hours. No matter who seemed to be “picking” on whom, by the end of each episode, the same duck continued to emerge in the front. It was clear to me that this duck was the leader of the group.
In today’s society, people are often heard shouting before a slamming door, mumbling down a hallway, grumbling while jabbing keys on the keyboard, speeding through a text, silently rolling their eyes in a cubicle and participating in many other forms of communication that all carry the same message: “Wanted: Effective Leadership!” Yet, day in and day out, the same frustration boils leading to disgruntled workers, employees quitting, increased prescribed medications, arguments in the workplace, drama carried home and perhaps most alarming – the silent acknowledgement that we, as a society, are more easily accepting the choice of maintaining status quo in regards to who is leading us, rather than taking the necessary steps to obtain a more effective leader.
As I’ve observed individuals around me, throughout my community, and listened to the concerns of those whom I encounter from various parts of our country, I have noticed trends in the negative effects of poor leadership (which could also simply be leaders who just maintain instead of raising the bar to the next level). The key effects that I’ve noted are:
- Communication Between Leadership and Employees Weakens – Once this breakdown begins, it can quickly ripple into the area of trust and confidence. If in a meeting, I address a concern in an area of my job, and leadership does not take any steps to rectify the problem, then my confidence in their role is negatively impacted. For example, let’s say I have a concern that is greatly impacting the product that the company is providing to clients. In a meeting with leadership, I addressed the concern and am told that steps will be taken in the upcoming weeks. A month later, the same problem still exists and is addressed again during a team meeting. Then three months later, we are still in the same exact situation (except for now there’s steam coming out of my ears because I’m frustrated over the lack of advancement towards a resolution). When leadership consistently communicates that they will take specific steps and then continue to not follow thru, trust and confidence in that individual to be a leader is tarnished resulting in weakened open communication, or perhaps even communication coming to a complete halt.
- Decreased Levels of Respect in the Workplace – When an employer has proven to be ineffective time and time again, the employees develop decreased levels of respect for the leadership. Not only will this impact the relationship between employer and employee, but it can also seep out into interactions between colleagues and the workplace itself. Let’s take an example in a nonprofit organization; if employees have seen the ineffective actions of the leader, then they may develop a lack of respect for that person in the role of “leader” (this is different from maintaining respect for the person in regards to manners and so forth). Once the lack of respect towards the employer begins, it can easily transfer into the levels respect between co-workers in regards to performing the tasks of the job. If the organization’s mission is to work at improving the quality of life for a target population in the community, the employees may begin to not put as much effort into their monthly meetings where they previously had spent countless hours planning innovative ideas to make a positive impact. The employees will not be concerned about their decreased quality of work because they do not have a high level of respect for their leadership, as a result, they will most likely not hold one another accountable as well. If there’s no respect for the employer, then when an employee is sent to a conference, there is no internal dialogue to prevent them from easily dismissing the workshops and going to lounge on a beach instead. See, once the respect for the leader begins to decrease, it has a domino effect on the organization as a whole.
- Professional Growth is Minimal – If there is an ineffective leader, the workers will often not be encouraged to grow as professionals. When they see that there’s a low standard expected, they will commonly just meet that level and not push themselves towards higher advancements. The spark is missing to inspire the staff to pursue a deeper level of engagement in the career field and to take the more challenging path towards developing stronger skills in one’s repertoire. For example, the field of education in America is under fire right now in many areas. Schools are struggling to meet federal and state regulations and expectations. One outcome is that principals are often found running from meeting to meeting and spending countless hours completely paperwork instead of interacting with the classrooms in their building. If this form of leadership is existing in a building, it is very common to also find very little professional development among that group of teachers. The teachers will meet the minimal expectations of the principal because they know that he/she is too busy to really look into what is taking place within this realm. If the leader cannot be effective in suppling feedback that leads workers towards reflecting and tweaking their professional growth, then it simply will not happen in most cases.
So, that all sounds rather depressing. You have ineffective leadership and employees who have basically given up. They show up at work to be a body in a location that will bring home a paycheck in two weeks to pay the bills. The excitement of what one’s work day may hold has often faded away and is replaced with eyes looking at the calendar app each morning after the alarm goes off with the hopes of seeing “Friday.” However, there is hope. I have found three key steps that leaders can take to increase their effectiveness and turn the mood of the work environment around. Nothing can ever be perfect, but you can improve your ability to be an effective leader. Check back this week for Part Two of “Wanted: Effective Leadership!”
Ahmeli…that this post will open someone’s eyes and encourage them to become a more effective leader.