Effective leadership means the difference between success and failure. An effective leader creates an environment that brings out the best in each team member. With few exceptions, the leader is the author and protector of an employee’s immediate environment. Why should the environment be a critical concern to leaders? Motivation, engagement, and performance research all place the nature of the work environment second only to the scope of the job in predicting high performance, retention, and other positive outcomes. Put simply, a positive work environment brings employees to work as well as provides motivation throughout the day.
Unfortunately, most of us have encountered at least one or two ineffective leaders during our career that were masters at creating environments filled with disengagement, disillusionment, and reduced productivity. Although excuses might be easy to equate to the behavior or actions of the typical employee that diminishes the work environment, we rarely offer the same level of forgiveness for the incompetence of our leaders. In a very simple sense, somewhere deep in humanity, we have a fear of being part of a group with a weak leader that intentionally or unintentionally, undermines our survival.
Although we know a good environment when we see one, it can be a bit harder to diagnosis which “bad leadership behaviors” possess the most potential to undermine your work environment. A few of the major signs include:
Lack of Trustworthiness
Trust is the glue that forms the relationship between leader and those led. Most of us prefer to work for someone we can depend on their values, decision-making, fairness, and consistency. Moreover, we want to work for someone that we can trust in good and bad times. A lack of integrity may seem like a good approach in a tough situation, but rarely does it provide a good foundation for effectiveness over time.
Set an Example
No one feels good about working hard if the leader is coasting. Most employees look to the leader to set the standard for behavior and performance. Even with all of the discussion of leading by example, many leaders assume they have paid their dues and need not work like their employees. This is a mistake.
Inability to Communicate
Effective leadership requires a mutual and interactive relationship. A solid relationship necessitates good communication. If a leader abdicates the role of communicator, employees assume the worst of his or her vision, motive, and actions. An effective leader must communicate clearly, regularly, and sincerely.
We all want to be on a winning team. The huge wealth and influence of professional sports confirms that notion that most of us want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. A poor performing leader that ignores or outright denies his or her weaknesses not only undermines his or her credibility, but the credibility of the team as a whole. Like any job, we have to work at it to improve and growth takes time. Some of the most common performance issues among leaders at all levels relate to a lack of vision, open-mindedness to other opinions or ideas, acceptance of change, and execution.
Leaders that demonstrate trustworthiness, commitment to setting an example, open communication, and dedication to performance hold the potential of creating an engaging and rewarding work environment. In our next post, we will examine what employees mean when they describe that ideal environment.