Barely a week seems to go by without a story of another organisation in a leadership crisis, from a sporting body to business lobby group. The causes, it seems, are all too familiar: poor/non-existent culture, leadership failures, a scandal of some sort. Have some sympathy for those outside of the leadership group; it’s their misfortune to be led by people whom they played no role in choosing. It will also likely fall on those same people to explain what took place when interviewing for a future role in another company.
All of this leads me to think: is there any greater responsibility afforded to those in an organisation than the leadership of others? I don’t believe there is. Yet when it comes to giving someone a position of people leadership – a role requiring the management of others, each with their unique hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses – too many organisations aren’t giving these decisions the correct amount of due diligence.
These leaders are the very same people who will end up determining the company’s success. Additionally, those whom they lead will determine the leader’s success; future promotions may well rest on a leader’s ability to motivate and inspire.
Of course, the sheer breadth of expectation for a leader has changed. No longer will setting objectives, checking in every now and then and approving holiday requests suffice in the modern company. In a chapter I wrote for a recently published book, Breaking Barriers: Transformational Leadership Stories from Pioneering Women and Men Inspiring Change, I argued the case that for a modern leader to succeed they must not only be a specialist in their area of expertise but also understand and be able to fulfil the roles of coach, mentor, strategist, tactician and therapist, to name a few. That’s a lot for anyone to cover, let alone a founder or small business owner who may be entirely new to being the leader of others.
The modern leader must be aware that a happy team, well-supported and cared for, will stay for longer, produce more, and so on. The leader will gain a reputation as the right person to care for high-performing employees; in turn, those employees will recommend that leader to other high performers inside and outside the company. It becomes a virtuous winning circle.
The generation beginning their working career in the early 2020s place as much importance on a company’s approach to health and wellbeing as they do to the salary/bonus terms. Companies are starting to incorporate sustainability KPIs into their company and employee metrics – something unthinkable a decade ago. Companies are doing this because they recognise the consumer shift towards evaluating where to shop or buy based on a company’s approach to sustainability.
If you were to ask me what I’d like to see embedded in organisations across the globe in the next five years, it’s that those leading others have specific KPIs for actively caring about the mental and physical health of those they lead. By making this a part of the total KPI mix, a company takes the brave decision to consider it as a factor in the way managers are appraised, their pay/bonus is calculated, and whether they should be considered for promotion or not.
Only a modern leader – as emotionally capable as they are intellectually capable – will be able to rise to the challenge of fulfilling the wishes of those now joining the workforce. Let’s keep raising our expectations of those who lead.