Practitioners and academics have argued that an engaged workforce can create competitive advantage. These authors say that it is imperative for leaders to identify the level of engagement in their organization and implement behavioural strategies that will facilitate full engagement. In clear terms, they describe how leaders can do that.
A professor in a recent executive education program on leadership elicited a lot of laughs by telling the following joke: "A CEO was asked how many people work in his company: ‘About half of them,’ he responded." After the session, several participants put a more serious face on the problem when, while chatting, they bemoaned the fact that, in their organization, a significant number of people had mentally "checked out."
Quite clearly, CEOs and managers should be very concerned about a waste of time, effort and resources in their organizations. The reason is simple: If people are not engaged, how can these same leaders attain those business objectives that are critical to improving organizational performance?
Book Excerpt: In his book The Will to Lead, Marvin Bower, McKinsey’s managing partner from 1950 to 1967, urges senior managers to abandon command-and-control structures and adopt a program to develop leaders, starting with themselves. In this excerpt from Chapter 3, he explores the attributes of leadership.
The shortcomings of command-and-control management are becoming ever more apparent. The hierarchy of bosses organized into ranks, with each superior exercising authority over subordinates who do exactly what their boss wants, has long been the dominant form of corporate organization. But recognizing that they are handicapped by their current systems, many companies are now questioning the way they manage themselves. They are striving for greater effectiveness and flexibility to cope with and capitalize on the fast-moving, ever-changing competitive conditions they see just ahead.
I believe that the old command system must be replaced. Fixing it is not good enough. My view is that authority should be replaced by leadership. By that, I don’t mean that a business should be run by a single leader, but that it should be run by a network of leaders positioned right through the organization. Leaders and leadership teams working together will, I suggest, run a business more effectively than a hierarchical, command-and-control structure.
Twenty years ago, I wrote a thank-you to a man named Brian from the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority. I was on a recycling field trip with a group of people from my office and he was our tour guide. After the tour, Brian and I exchanged business cards and made small talk. I got the feeling that we both were interested in learning more about each other, on a personal level.
After the tour I sent him the note. A week later, he called and asked me out on a date. We went on many more dates after that and eventually got married. I joke that the thank-you note was the catalyst for our long-lasting love affair. Besides, I never imagined meeting the man of my dreams at the county dump!
In my case, a thank-you note changed my life. It’s a small touch that has the potential to leave a lasting impression. We communicate more quickly than ever before. Instead of a handwritten note, most people opt to send a quick text message or email.
As the world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela and commemorates his greatness as a leader, we would do well to remember that one of the many hallmarks of his leadership was trust. The greatest leaders in the world gravitated toward Mr. Mandela because he was genuinely trustworthy and his purpose was to support peace, prosperity and unity not only in South Africa – but throughout the world. Mandela was able to lead people in ways that many find impossible to do. As he famously said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
The job of a CEO has never been more challenging and rewarding. However, the job can be a lonely one despite the generous compensation, perks and attention. Boards, and CEOs are increasingly turning to engaging professional executive coaches to assist CEOs in their performance and growth and reduce attrition.
Why should CEOs have coaches now? Previous generations managed without them. Today’s president or CEO faces more pressures than ever. Business leaders are dealing with rapidly changing markets, technologies and workforces, increased financial and legal scrutiny ... and more.