Why Are There So Many Poor Leaders?
Why Are There So Many Poor Leaders?
By Mark Wager
The biggest challenge facing the business world today is poor leadership. When I'm talking about leadership I'm not just talking about decisions made at the top by CEOs. I'm talking about leadership at every level of a company and the inability to motivate and inspire people. This is costing the economy millions of dollars every year.
Regular readers will already be aware of the research that the Australasian Leadership Institute has conducted regarding the state of leadership in today's business. Just to summarise, the vast majority of people believe their boss is hard working and dedicated to their job but approximately one in four consider their boss to be a poor leader and in companies that have one hundred employees or more the figure goes up to one in three. So you are looking at a third of the workforce who are reporting to someone who is not communicating with them effectively, they are not motivating them and they are not inspiring them to work to their fullest. In addition to the personal cost of working for a person like this there is a real financial cost which many companies, not all but many are completely unaware of. Depending on which research you follow, the difference in productivity between an employee who reports to someone with good leadership skills and an employee who reports to someone who is a poor leader can be anything from 10% to 500%. Now just think about the impact that leadership has on your company and what you could do with such an increase in productivity. Here's the scariest part of all. If you think that this article doesn't apply to your company, there's a good chance that you are wrong and you are in fact one of the companies that is losing money every day because of poor leadership.
The most common question I get asked whenever I deliver a talk or facilitate a leadership workshop is "why?" Why is the figure so high because everyone knows what leadership is and recognises it. Whether it's a coach who leads a sports team to success, a politician who wants to make a difference in the world or a teacher who inspires a student to find their passion. Good leadership is recognised, yet many poor leaders exist in the workplace. The answer is that while people know what leadership is, they often don't understand it and if you don't understand something you can never become a good at it. Sadly, because of this the business world often incentivises and promotes behaviours which discourages good leadership and encourages poor leadership.
Good leadership is the ability to influence people to act because they want to act. If people do something because they want to, then they will demonstrate far more focus, commitment and passion than they would if they were just ordered to do it. Leaders inspire people and in order to do this the leader has to be prepared to put the needs of others ahead of their own. True leaders know that within a team the followers are more important than the leader because they know that without followers the leader is not leading anyone, they are just someone with an opinion and nothing more.
This selflessness that good leaders require is not natural even though it's desirable. We are wired as human beings to be attracted to actions that benefit us personally. It's not natural to put the needs of others ahead of our own which is why when we see it in society we highlight these acts and we reward them and hold up the people who demonstrate selfishness as examples for society. Yet in the business world the opposite occurs. If you put your own needs ahead of other individuals you are recognised as being driven, you are viewed as ambitious and you are marked for promotion. We have it the wrong way around, so we need to encourage true leaders and not people who just view leadership as a title. It's an honour and an obligation that requires individuals to be trustworthy, authentic and demonstrate empathy. Yet there are businesses that are starting to recognise this and are seeing the financial benefits that good leadership can produce.
Quest nutrition is a United States company which focuses on produces nutrition bars. You may not have heard from them as they are still new but in their short existence they experienced 57,000% growth within its first three years and now employees over 1,300 full time workers and is a multi million dollar business. For Quest nutrition making money is important but it's not the aim of why they exist, their purpose is greater than money and greater than the individuals who work there and that's because everyone who works for Quest knows that their ultimate aim is to end metabolic disease and to make that happen they aim to produce food that is good for you and still taste good. By placing the needs of others at the heart of the company, in fact at the core of their actual existence they are demonstrating an act of selflessness that is at the heart of all good leadership.
Led by entrepreneur Tom Bilyeu they have achieved amazing results not by telling people what to do but instead creating an environment which allows people to motivate themselves. This greatly increases productivity. This environment is created through a list of twenty five points that highlights what they believe in and then they recruit people who believe in what they believe in. Companies like Quest have demonstrated how good leadership can impact not just the people they work alongside but also the profitability of the company itself and that is good business.
When you ask, Why do poor leaders exist?" Instead you need to ask yourself a more important question and that is, "Are you one of those poor leaders?" You may not think you are but many of us don't know what we don't know and despite your best efforts to be a good leader you may not be the type of leader that people want, the type of leader that communicates, motivates and inspires and the type for leader that can generate unbelievable outcomes and profits for your business. The positive news is that you can become that type of leader. It takes time and takes a lot of work but the start is accepting that the leader you see in yourself may not be the same as the leader that others see in you. As a leader, it's not how you see yourself but how others see you that counts.
Ask yourself, how does your team view you as a leader? Are you among the leaders who one third of the workforce views as a hardworking manager yet a poor leader? Ask yourself are you focussing on motivating people or focussing in creating an environment that allows people to motivate themselves and finally are you putting the needs of others ahead of your own? If you do then you will become a better leader and better leadership ultimately results in better business.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted: Monday 16 January 2017