There is always a pecking order, regardless of the size of the henhouse. And there will always be dissatisfied employees regardless of how magnificent you are, but your overall leadership style may also predict morale within your company.
Daniel Goleman’s study Leadership That Gets Results offers five styles of leadership in management positions, including the pace setting leader, the authoritative leader, the affiliative leader, the coaching leader and the coercive leader.
Most successful leaders volley between several of these styles depending on the circumstances on any given day. Each style has its necessary place. No one would benefit from an overly affiliative prison guard supervisor or a strict, coercive daycare manager.
Each of these leadership styles is necessary and valuable and generally, a good leader knows when to assert each type of leadership style to maximize morale and get things done.
In Rudi Dalman’s article on the subject of leadership, he invites leaders to explore their leadership style and ego, and asserts that part of the morale issues in some companies may be related to a “top-down” leadership style in which supervisors become oblivious to what it is like “working in the trenches” or expect employees to follow their example of working beyond company expectations without compensatory measures.
Top-down leaders may begrudgingly feel reluctant to recognize employees who are “just doing their job,” and may feel this is a slippery slope into entitled thinking and expect a reward for coming to work. Such leaders will likely be heard saying, “their recognition is their paycheck.”
While it is true that the “prenup” of an employee starting a job is the exchange of work for pay, the relationship will wither and die on the vine without being tended to carefully.
People spend a majority of their waking hours during the workweek at your company. If treated with passing disregard or worse, disrespect, employees will quickly resent this number of hours of their life spent in a negative environment, and there is much at stake when people begin to feel this way.
There is a sweet spot between harnessing the positive work ethic of employees and committing to the development of a satisfying, respectful work environment. People need to have a reasonable sense of autonomy and feel as if they are stakeholders within the company.
Healthy leadership isn’t afraid of this employee/stakeholder dichotomy and understands that this type of workplace results in committed workers, reduced turnover, decreased the need for retraining expenses for new employees and less outsourcing of funds for meaningless “morale-boosting” company barbecues.
Keep your burgers; give people some legit company cred! Many leaders who are more prone toward the top down, or authoritative approach may feel the inherent risks of a more affiliative approach. “Too many cooks in the kitchen” may seem like a fast trip to destruction, but one chef and fifty wait staff isn’t an effective strategy either.
When people are entrusted with responsibility and made part of the decision-making process, most will rise to the occasion. Those who aren’t prepared for this empowering environment will filter out quickly and may find that there isn’t enough anonymity in this setting that allows them to be a bottom-dweller.
A distrustful leader is also easily spotted and this can result in mutually distrusting employees. The energy it requires to remain in a defensive position is draining and will send morale down the tubes. Examples of distrustful employers are those who micromanage, spend too much time chasing down negative information and make fault-finding a priority.
Distrustful employees are constantly looking over their shoulder, become disenchanted with the company easily and perpetually peruse employment sites. Both sides of the desk suffer when distrust is the underlying factor in a work environment. Time, energy and resources are diverted into a black hole of negativity.
Perhaps businesses and leaders would do well to take a page from the handbook of the many successful millennial leaders, as is indicated in Kavita Sahai’s article on Forbes.com. The characteristics commonly associated with such leaders are authenticity, value alignment, willingness to challenge the status quo, and constant communication.
Millennial leaders understand the value of working collaboratively and have grown up in a culture that has supported and enabled their creative thinking, which has translated into some unique and powerful leadership styles in a business culture that truly needed the metamorphosis.
There is some ego at stake with these shifting leadership styles. Naturally, business owners and supervisors have a lot invested in organizational success, which can manifest into leadership with an authoritarian style to ensure things are done in the best way possible. But therein lies the flaw; the assumption that getting things done in the best way possible requires a dictatorship. Nobody likes a king.
Allowing and even encouraging employees to think about how to enhance processes and work flow only serves to improve the bottom line and boosts morale in a way the top down approach could never do. This is what millennial leaders intuitively know, and it translates well into effective leadership.
Within that acceptance of others’ input lies an important acknowledgement that “I have one mind, and may not always see all possibilities” and “other people have great ideas that will improve the whole.”
For people of more traditional top-down leadership styles, it may feel risky to trust subordinates with this much leeway. There may be a fear that offering a team problem solving approach encourages employees to take excessive liberties.
The risk of not opening some power to employees is more detrimental in many ways. Preach your mission, train your leaders, and trust your employees to do the work well. Making them love the company will happen organically if you treat employees with respect, prioritize their needs for a healthy work environment and let them thrive in the areas in which they are gifted.
Be a proud-parent type of leader; extol gratitude and appreciation for a job well done, brag about outstanding performance of individuals, guide compassionately and encourage people to take care of themselves while being successful in the workplace.
In a 2014 study of Employee Trust and Workplace Performance, Brown, Gray, McHardy and Taylor found correlation between employee trust in the workplace and improved financial status and productivity. The study offers useful insights into the ways varying corporate decisions impact employee trust levels and affects a variety of success measurements. Mutual trust is a key factor in healthy morale.
In a changing global business purview, a transition into more liberated leadership styles is crucial to meet best practices, retain employees and improve the bottom line.