As an entrepreneur, corporate leader or manager, an understanding of the Employee Engagement movement has the potential to result in much more mutual styles of leadership within your companies.

We have witnessed velvet revolutions initially in the former soviet occupied Eastern Europe and subsequently with the Arab Spring as people try to throw off authoritarian regimes, often finding that initial success is difficult to maintain. In corporate land we are seeing a challenge to command and control, hierarchical capitalism. A challenge presented by the Employee Engagement movement which rumbled into life at the turn of the century.

Do people want to be led by you? In an entrepreneurial situation what does leadership look like?

These are questions that would be entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and managers need to ask themselves:

  • Why do or why would be people turn up every day for you?
  • Why do or why would people give you their creativity and energy?
  • Why do or why would they feel part of the mission or bit part extras?
  • How do you set sufficient direction and context without emasculating talent?

Entrepreneurs and many a corporate leader are often monomaniacal, narcissistic, selfish, psychopathic; they are also often persuasive and charming.

Entrepreneurs have the ability to attract a cult following by those who want to belong to fashionable first movers in a market. These followers may even be more ideological than you, as the entrepreneur, in the pursuit of your mission. You have given them a place on a much more exciting bus than most corporates can offer. And there’s nothing better than a meaningful mission to engage the talent. Entrepreneurs and corporates also know that many people look first for a work home, a work home that provides them with meaning and esteem, with financial considerations being secondary providing that they are getting the same reward as others in similar roles. You are no doubt aware that people seek parity with co-workers before absolute rewards.

In my own experience, review time with a staff of 130 in London and Boston was notable. Employees would got to any lengths to work out whether they were financially aligned with others they saw as their peers. When it came to prepare the business for sale, people were less concerned with how much stock they had, as they were with how much the next guy was getting.

What can we learn from corporate land where people line up to work for iconic brands like Virgin, Burberry, Apple, 02, Google, GE and others where there is often a charismatic and inspirational leader who epitomises the spirit of the company. They are also often happy to accept less remuneration than they might receive at what they see as duller brands.

We think of the (apparently) extroverted leader role models but you don’t have to be extroverted to be charismatic and inspirational. You don’t even need to be that nice – think of the departed Steve Jobs who reputedly was a bit of a tyrant. But maybe geniuses can get away with behaviours that lesser mortals can’t.

Leaders in corporate land and small businesses alike become known by the sum of experiences that their people have enjoyed or endured from their leaders or you and me. Our daily presence and performances define our reputations.

Our people learn quickly to summarise our presence and performances as reviewers of the stage might review actors’ performances. Our leadership presence precede us.

Yet many leaders have no idea what that leadership presence is and little idea if it is helping or hindering attaining their goals. How do we start to work out what our leadership presence is?

Our leadership presence lies in the daily minutiae of five factors that we have influence over, if we are aware of them and minded to – the five are:

  • Our manner & manners
  • Our tone
  • How we control our mood & mood creep
  • How we make decisions

Our performance styles – by which I mean the styles we automatically adopt for every interaction with people – we know that most of us adopt around three styles. These include coach, visionary, arbiter, flirt, maverick, expert/teacher, one of the gang, confidant, lobbyists, sniper, bully, reporter, autocrat.

Much of our presence is behaviour that we have learned from influential figures in our lives. A first step to effective leadership lies in understanding our behaviours that we have learned from influential figures in our lives. The 1950s tool the Johari window enables us to see how we see ourselves and how others see us.

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Another good tool for individuals is the gallery of people who have influenced our behaviours.

Influence

You might want to fill in your own heroes and rogues gallery and reflect what behaviours you might have consciously or unconsciously adopted. And more critically whether these are helpful to you and your people.

From our UK wide research among 25,000 we have a pretty good idea of what engaged people do.

They:

  • Enjoy their work whatever they do
  • Make it their job to do it better
  • Risk speaking upwards to challenge and innovate
  • Make it safe for people to challenge up
  • Self-organise – less need for costly supervision
  • Take responsibility
  • Collaborate within & beyond their ‘border’
  • Resolve difficulties locally
  • Demonstrate awareness of personal limits
  • Are generous with time and skills – and with opening up decision making to those who can add value and speed. The generous leader considers what should be set in stone and what should be opened up to others. Your hero’s gallery will be peppered with the faces that have been generous to you.

In summary, our leadership presence influences considerably our success. We need to understand the key components of our leadership presence:

  • How we make decisions
  • Our performance styles
  • How our behaviours impact others

These are things we can seek to understand and adapt. If you would like to know more about the tools that will help an ambitious team grow, please get in touch.

johnsmythe@engageforchange.com