In the most recent book published by Gallup, “Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow,” authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie conducted thousands of interviews to determine that followers have four basic needs that they want leaders to meet—trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Effective leaders need to move from the old command-and-control style of leadership to a more purposeful leadership style. The Gallup study serves to reinforce that being a great leader is more than just seven steps to success. Purposeful leadership is a state of being. It is how you show up to work and how you value every person that you touch. No two leaders are alike, but leading with purpose changes perspective and focus producing great relationships, engagement, and in turn, unparalleled results.
Purposeful leaders evoke trust. This is not “I like you and therefore I trust you.” It is a visceral trust. You have my back and I have yours. It is earned and “lived” as part of the culture. In a recent meeting with an executive team, we were talking about how the team made decisions without oversight. To the surprise of the newly minted CEO, the team said that they couldn’t make any decisions. It felt to them like a lack of trust. They were being encouraged to collaborate with their colleagues on every decision. The team said that this collaboration slowed down the organization, was a constraint to execution and did not take advantage of the skills that they brought to their area of expertise. They called it micro-management. We described the CEO as a benevolent dictator. The CEO promised to trust the team to make good decisions, even if the decisions were different from his own. As a purposeful leader, you need to trust.
I was speaking with a CEO regarding a friend of his that was working as a top salesperson in a Fortune 500 company. This friend had dropped from the top 10% in the organization to the bottom 10% in a short period of time. Within 90 days, the Fortune 500 Company notified their salesperson that he had to improve in one month or he would be fired. What the Fortune 500 Company failed to find out was what caused this drop in performance. The CEO told me that his friend, the salesperson, was in the middle of a difficult divorce which was causing much distress both personally and professionally. For the Fortune 500 Company the bottom line was the bottom line. Nobody took the time to ask the formerly great salesperson why he was not performing well. No compassion, no caring, just buck up and do your job. The salesperson felt abandoned and the company faced the potential loss of a top flight salesperson. Human beings are messy and hard to understand at times. We need to show up as curious and compassionate. People remain our most important resource.
Stability is an anchor that offers most employees confidence. The last thing anyone wants to do is work for a company that is constantly changing or on the edge of financial ruin. Over the past four years I have worked with a company that has been close to bankruptcy. The circumstance is aggravated by poor leadership, poor financial management and good old bad luck. Another factor has been their inability to staff effectively. Their turnover rate exceeded 50%. The cost of this turnover has been very expensive, but even more importantly turnover has caused the company to “feel” unstable. Water cooler talk and new faces every week add to the instability.
Some change in a business is inevitable. Purposeful leaders work to maintain a predictable order. People want to work in a well-run stable environment. They do not want to feel as though they are climbing into the seat of a roller coaster every time they come to work.
People want to come to work to make a difference. If your only focus is on making a buck, your employees will find it easy to disconnect. I promise you nobody wants to make more money so that the executives can drive a bigger car or take longer vacations. Every company needs to be financially healthy, but your employees are looking for more. They want hope … they want a greater purpose. Purpose usually comes in the form of “why” we come to work every day. I often explain purpose using the following story. A valve company CEO is ready to conduct his annual town hall meeting, and the valves company financial information flashed on the screens. The lights dim and the CEO takes the stage. He describes purpose in this way. “This morning at 6 a.m., a janitor walked down a flight of steps in Maine and turned 10 of our valves to make a school warm and safe so that kids could learn. At 9:30, they turned 100 of our valves on in an operating room in Minneapolis and we saved three lives today. And you think we just sell valves?”
Trust, compassion, stability and hope frame a purposeful leader’s perspective when they show up for work. Never overlook that you are dealing with human beings. When people feel loved and appreciated, they do a great job. Recognize this mindful awareness in your workplace and results will follow.
John Dame (JD@johndame.com) is an author, business strategist and executive coach. He is producing a series events that explore purposeful leadership called The Evolution Leadership Academy Series. The series gets underway on May 23 at Harrisburg Country Club. Tickets are available online at www.evolutionconference.org.