Magazine Article | May 27, 2015

You Shouldn't Have To Look Behind To See If Anyone Is Following You

Source: Life Science Leader

By John Baldoni, chair of the leadership development practice, N2growth

Who will follow you? That’s a question that many executives ask — or should ask — themselves regularly. The problem is that they might not like what they hear. According to research conducted by Sebastian Brion at IESE (the graduate business school of the University of Navarra), and as reported in The Economist, “Those primed with high power were convinced that others were on their side; a view not shared by those being bossed.” In fact, at times those lowly powered “would form alliances against the powerful, even when it was not in their financial interest.”

Wake up, bosses. Or better yet, you might want to sleep with one eye open.

In reality, as The Economist notes, few people (other than at the top) would be surprised at these findings. It is human nature to distrust those at the very top unless they demonstrate that they truly have our best interests at heart. One reason for growing rates of distrust in organizations is that employees feel that the rules of accountability do not apply to those at the top. Employees who are denied raises or merit pay are annoyed, justifiably so, at senior executives who get big bonuses even when the company does not achieve its financial targets.

So what can a boss do? Lead by engaging the hearts and minds of those you lead. As I write in my newest book, MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gusty Leadership, you need to make engagement tangible. Bosses engage best when they do the following:

    Yes, bosses do an okay job of telling subordinates what they are supposed to do, but fewer bosses take the time to link what the employee does to the vision and mission of the organization. Clear expectations shape the employee’s outlook on the work and facilitate collaboration among colleagues to think creatively and execute accordingly.
    Busy bosses may think they have an excuse for not making time to listen, but they are kidding themselves. Listening to employees discuss their projects as well as provide ideas and suggestions for continuing the project is critical to the good running of the enterprise.
    Results are critical to those in management. Good bosses are those that do whatever it takes — within reason — to achieve goals. At the same time, when things fall short, they accept consequences for themselves.
    Good bosses share the spotlight with others. They are the first to push others to receive credit for a job well done. And when things do not go well, they accept blame.

There is something else I have noticed that exceptional bosses do. They make themselves available to their employees. For example, they attend employee gatherings, and when invited, show up at an employee’s family events. They also work behind the scenes to provide support to employees in need of assistance with family issues or medical challenges. In short, such bosses are there for their people.

As best-selling leadership author and inspirational speaker, John Maxwell, puts it: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Bosses need to earn the respect of their employees every day. Good bosses know this; mediocre bosses do not. It’s as simple as that.