The search for engaging leaders in businesses is a significant focus for both recruitment and talent development professions. Business leaders know that they must keep employee engaged to sustain any profitability or productivity gains they have made. We are all keenly aware of the business value of the engaging leader.
In this drive by organisations towards engaging leadership as a desired culture and ethos, all current and aspiring leaders and managers need to now consider the impact of this new requirement to be an engaging leader on their roles and the demands this evolution is going to place on them. HR is now talking about recruiting engaging leaders so this will be included in the selection process. For existing managers/leaders seeking promotion, this will also be included in the promotional process.
So, the key concern for all current and aspiring leaders/managers, is how do you stack up as an engaging leader. How do you stack up as a manager who prioritises building good relationships over spreadsheets? I have 6 questions below that you can ask yourself. This is by no means an exhaustive assessment of your potential as an engaging leader – let’s just call it a starting point from which you can begin your development.
Are you an emotionally intelligent leader?
Emotionally intelligent leaders will be aware of their own emotions and will manage how they react when these emotions are present. They will engage their thinking capacity and make better decisions rather than reacting from their emotions and damaging relationships in the team.
Emotionally intelligent leaders will also be aware of the emotions of others in their team and not take them personally. This gives them the ability to anticipate their team member’s reactions in certain situations and respond appropriately.
Moreover, the emotionally intelligent leader is consistent in their behaviour and reactions. People are more comfortable when they can anticipate reactions and therefore are more ready to be creative and innovative and to buy into the team vision.
How well do you know the individual members in your team?
By this question, I am not asking if you know their names and that of their family and loved ones or their pets. It’s a start but not enough.
The engaging leader will know what makes the individual members of their team tick and what they are passionate about. The engaging leader will not make the mistake of treating them all as one but will understand that each person is different. They pick up this information by listening and taking an interest in their team members’ activities, both in work and outside work.
When do you trust and respect your team members?
The worst thing a leader can do is state that their ‘trust and respect is there to be won’ by the team. This creates a conflict within the team as members will value the worth of the leader’s trust and respect differently. Usually, when it is put out there as a prize to be won, it is generally not worth the effort as this type of leader is likely to move the goalposts just as the employee thinks they are about to win.
Engaging leaders trust and respect their team members from the outset. It is not a prize but something to work with, nurture and grow. They seek to understand their team members, the offerings they provide to the team and to maximise and develop these offerings.
Do you value the diversity in your team and create meaningful opportunities to maximize this?
As can be understood from the above questions, the engaging leader absolutely values diversity in their team and will seek to provide the opportunities to allow individual team members to develop and grow their diverse skills and make the best contribution to the team effort they can. The engaging leader knows that this diversity strengthens the team, whereas seeking uniformity weakens it.
How well do you receive feedback and deal with challenge within your team?
Engaging leaders welcome dissenting opinions, feedback and challenges to the status quo. A conversation I have been having with Rich Baker MBA on LinkedIn has just reminded me of an apt quote here – “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”. Engaging leaders know that and, more importantly, understand it. They realise the end result is more important than them being right and the challenge function within the team is crucial to innovation, creativity and leveraging diversity.
Engaging leaders respect independent thought and are also challenging to the status quo. They know the status quo exists to eventually quell creativity. They like to make things better.
Do you genuinely care about the well-being of each individual within your team?
This is an important question. Your team members expect to be cared for and looked after. They rightly expect their leader and employer to have their best interests at heart.
Sincerity and authenticity are crucial. Engaging leaders are genuinely interested in the well-being of their team members. Every communication and action demonstrates this clearly. Their team members know it and are better off for it.
Engaging leaders protect their team and provide a safe environment within which to work creatively and challenge to improve outcomes. It is a good place to be.