Leaders under pressure must put people first, ensuring that everyone in the company is clear on their role and purpose, and is working together to achieve the business goals.
A survey in the US by administrative staffing firm Office Team in June this year found that nearly half of all employees say they have a bad boss. Some 55 percent of those said they dealt with it by trying to improve the situation or just suffering through, with 38 percent saying they left the company either immediately or as soon as they had lined up a new job.
According to US workplace expert and author Lynn Taylor, many people waste a lot of time stressing out about bad bosses, with employees on average spending about 19.2 hours a week worrying about “what a boss says or does” – with 13 of these hours being during the working week. Either way, people leaving a company or simply not being focused on their job because of bad leadership is going to cost a business in the long run.
A white paper published last year from The Ken Blanchard Companies revealed that poor leadership is costing the average company in the US seven percent of its annual revenue, or over a million dollars a year for organisations with $15 million dollars or more in annual sales.
The news isn’t much better for bosses in the UK, with a recent CIPD report highlighting that three quarters of employees think their bosses lack leadership and management skills. Research published last year by talent management consultancy DDI, and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in August also threw an equally dim light on some of the leadership in UK organisations.
Only a third (36 percent) of UK leaders and one in five (18 percent) UK HR professionals rate the quality of leadership as ‘high’ in their organisations and just four out of ten leaders said their company had an effective strategy for leadership development.
This research highlights how many businesses around the world are struggling under ineffectual leadership and lacking a strategy for developing future leaders, thereby allowing the situation to get worse.
What is often overlooked is the fact that people are not born great leaders—leadership skills can be taught—which begs the question why ineffectual leadership is still tolerated. Sadly, you can see poor leadership at work in any country in the world, from the autocrat who drives fear into employees to obey his commands to the inclusive ‘Mr Nice Guy’ who defers decisions to others so often that nothing gets done and no-one knows what they should be doing.
What makes a good boss?
Companies need to strive for authentic leadership. Like the inclusive leader, authentic leaders don’t do everything themselves, looking to others to provide answers—but they provide the vision first. They set big goals and crucially trust people to make them happen, and they are not motivated by being liked. They are passionate, great communicators and share openly the vision for the business and if it needs changing, they get people together, share the facts and get them to design the new strategy, gaining strength and unity from teamwork.
Good leaders don’t waver on big decisions. They honour their company’s roots and try and recapture the enthusiasm and passion that started the company. Anyone can learn these skills.
The current high pressured trading environment has led to many leaders taking their eye off the ball. Many have neglected the development of their people to focus on immediate business pressures. Consequently, their teams have been left without direction and clear goals—a cardinal sin in leadership.
It also seems that leaders are deluded about their own performance. Eighty percent of managers think their employees are satisfied with them as a leader, but just 58 percent of employees agree. This is a major disconnect. Under pressure, leaders tend to resort to controlling behaviour, so long term planning and a focus on people go out the window. It is clear that leaders need to rethink both their leadership style and the impact it has on their employees.
They need to recognise that their controlling behaviour is making the situation worse; yes, people in the business need to be out of their comfort zone, but it needs to feel exciting rather than scary, and they need direction and development.
Many business leaders need to change the way they behave. If they are feeling the pressure, they must never show it. Good leadership is about putting the people in the business first and prioritising them over any problem. This means recognising that a problem is just today’s issue and the people are the business—they matter more. And, while the leader’s job is tough, they are being paid well.
Additionally, leaders need to demonstrate the right way to behave at all times and teach people around them their ethics, values and demonstrate their integrity. They need to remind everyone of the mission, values and goals of the business and communicate these at all times. They should be evangelists and ensure everyone in the company is clear on their role and purpose, and is working together to achieve the business goals.
Top tips to become great leaders
1. Act like you just took over
2. Trust employees with the truth
3. Set audacious goals
4. Don’t rescue people from events
5. Stamp out ‘them and us’
6. Radical comes before drastic
7. Always be ‘on purpose’
8. Be a game changer, not a seat filler
9. The vision is the boss