Last week my attention was drawn to an interesting article my Michelle Stevens for the CIPD magazine which expands upon new research carried out by Ashridge Business School, who recently interviewed a cross section of CEOs about their views on employee engagement. The research, which identifies barriers to leadership buy in, reveals some intriguing insights.
The study found that while the majority of leaders saw the outcome of engagement as an ‘organisational climate where people chose to give the very best of themselves at work’, the report concluded that one of the major factors that stops chief execs engaging with engagement is simply that many of them “lack an emotional connection to engagement”, in that “they may not be open to feedback or to sharing power”.
The report also pointed to the fact that there may also be lack of leadership capability, particularly around emotional intelligence and authenticity, a lack of belief amongst some CEOs that engagement is really a problem (in that they failed to see the impact on the bottom line), and that a lack of trust in leadership may also be a barrier to engagement.
Some leaders identified the culture that operates within the nation’s businesses as a barrier to engagement, citing outdated styles of leadership and the system’s focus on short-term results. Other interviewees believed that hierarchies within organisations prevented honest conversations between employees and management.
In his book ‘More Money, More Time, Less Stress” John Rosling, CEO of International business performance organisation Shirlaws, stresses that the role of The CEO is all about enabling the organisation, and empowering individuals. He goes on to say that the role of the Chief is to Lead, not to Manage, and that the role is all about developing the right people, thinking strategically about opportunities, and, critically, about defining the culture of the organisation, and then driving alignment to it.
It is clear that it is the job of the CEO to build and nurture the culture of the business, and that it is that business culture that will ultimately be the reason why talented people will work for the organisation, stay loyal to the organisation, and create wealth for the organisation. People want to feel part of something with a purpose more compelling, and more important than just making money.
For all of us, often our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness. The unshakeable vision and driving force that compels an individual to build their own company, or rise up through the ranks to become leader of an organisation, may at the same time, negatively impact on their awareness of the extent that others have bought into their vision, or the culture that they have created.
When we work with senior leadership teams to develop their charismatic leadership potential, we look to develop their authentic leadership qualities in five key areas. Vision and Driving Force are, without doubt, important qualities of truly charismatic leaders, but we believe that these attributes need to be balanced with high levels of Sensory Awareness – both of others, and critically of ourselves. The fourth area that we look to develop when we work with leaders is their Self-Esteem. Ashridge’s research backs up our own conclusions that CEOS are often closed to feedback and sharing power. When we look more closely to the individual belief systems that prevent many leaders from being more open, we regularly find that a reluctance to consult, delegate and share power, is manifested in a deep fear and anxiety about whether they are good enough – the very same fear in fact, that created their motivation and drive to make it to the top in the first place!
The final pillar of truly authentic charismatic leadership is energy. Great leaders understand that no matter how infatiguable it is, no one person’s energy can compare with the energy that is generated and multiplied by a team of people all committed to a collective vision and pulling in the same direction. Above all else we believe that the principle role of a CEO in a business to build the energy. The reason why CEOs absolutely have to engage with engagement is because if just one person within an organisation starts pulling in a different direction, the collective energy is dissipated and diminished.