Magazine Article | October 1, 2019

Corporate Leaders Stifle Employees

Source: Life Science Leader

By Glenn Llopis

Three graduation speakers gave similar career advice: Be yourself and disrupt the status quo. Meanwhile, employers fight that mentality at every turn; they cling to the status quo by putting people in boxes and telling them what to do, in the name of efficiency or team cohesion.

People are frustrated and exhausted, not from overwork, but from a particularly brutal kind of “underwork.” They’ve got skills, ideas, and talents that they want to use, but can’t, because to do so would disrupt everyone who finds comfort in the status quo.

Most organizations and leaders say they want to empower people to contribute at their fullest capacity. But most leaders are never taught how to do that. We fall into the same traps, which include:

  • segmenting people in the name of diversity, resulting in silos that separate, rather than include
  • being loyal to the brand and the company’s mission over people and individual capacity, to the point that identity and contribution get stifled
  • focusing on achieving results that are never questioned, so new methods aren’t given a chance.

We’re stuck in the age of standardization, which was an age when organizations didn’t see the need to value one’s individuality or personal perspectives. But as a society, we are more diverse and informed than ever before. We are aware of and proud of our individualities. We’ve entered the age of personalization, but our leadership strategies have not caught up.

If we don’t interrupt ourselves, the cycle will continue.


Here are three ways to turn things around:

1. Turn diversity into inclusion by interrupting the tendency to put people into boxes.

Does your organization have a system for training leaders to identify individual capabilities when hiring or forming teams, so that everyone can look beyond experience and education as the only indicators of potential and invite new thinking into the mix? Inclusion is an action that constructively interrupts the process of always seeking more of what’s familiar. This invites new people in.

2. Speaking of seeking the familiar, stop being tribal, and start seeing each other as human.

It’s easier to be with and work with people who are similar to us. It’s easy to rationalize excluding someone who’s different or difficult in the name of efficiency or team cohesion. But if we really want to expand the capacity of our teams and our people, we must interrupt our preference for ease and invite the discomfort of working closely with people who think differently. This invites people to be, and share, themselves.

3. Loosen your grip on results, and activate methods for leading in a way that honors personalization.

Many leaders tell me they spend time achieving results that are pointless, because that’s how they are measured. Spending time developing new, forward-looking methods is a risk because there’s no incentive for deviating from the accepted path of success. This is paralyzing. People don’t think they have influence, so they stop caring about contributing and just comply.

If you want to give people freedom to stretch, measure methods, not just results. This invites people to contribute at their highest capacity.

GLENN LLOPIS, is a Cuban-American entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, and senior advisor to Fortune 500 companies and organizations in healthcare, retail, consumer packaged goods, and beyond.