In the previous installment of my monthly newsletter, I delved deep into the complexities that rule today’s work environments and how effective leaders respond to these. By the end of it, one thing was very clear: complex work environments cannot function effectively without great leaders at the helm.
So, the question I’d like to throw now is this: what does it mean to be a great leader in today’s complex work environment?
Great Place To Work®’s Global CEO, Michael C. Bush, answers this question through the Leadership Persona Hierarchy articulated in his book, “A Great Place to Work For All”. These are five personas that you can use to identify which leadership level you’re at and more importantly, where you can improve.
1. The Unintentional Leader
“She isn’t really a horrible manager. All I’m saying is that she needs to relax a bit and talk to us without yelling or being angry.”
“He made me feel stupid for asking that question.”
Has a similar sentiment ever crossed your mind? This kind of opinion tends to be linked with the Unintentional Leader. Such concerns eventually lead to people feeling, “I am not paid enough to put up with this!”
Unintentional Leaders possess an arsenal of amazing technical skills. However, what they often need improvement on are the people skills necessary for a leader to inspire and motivate their people.
Most likely, Unintentional Leaders are those who were recognized as excellent individual contributors. But the gap that is frequently overlooked by management is the imperative guidance needed in the transition from being an individual contributor to a leader.
Assuming that high-potential individual contributors will smoothly ease into a management track is a common pitfall that many companies miss. Often, managers, especially new ones, need coaching on how to effectively lead their teams.
2. The Hit-or-Miss Leader
Just by how it’s called, these leaders are on or off, hot or cold, a good friend or an ally to some but not to others. Unlike Unintentional Leaders, Hit-or-Miss Leaders don’t actively hurt an organization, but neither are they actively supporting their team or performing their duties well. They don’t step up as often as they should.
The general sentiment of their employees is, “Is anybody home?” They often wonder if their leader will be there for them or not.
3. The Transactional Leader
Have you ever had the experience of having someone only talk to you because they need something from you? Transactional leaders operate the same way.
They love to tick off boxes from their checklist. Hell-bent on only achieving their own goals, they aren’t the quintessence of forward-thinking or charismatic people. Like the Unintentional Leader, this persona finds it difficult to forge personal connections in the workplace. Hence, employees tend not to be motivated and empowered by this type of manager.
“They get the job done — and nothing more,” is a general sentiment of people with Transactional Leaders. The key to improving from this kind of persona is to ask oneself these questions: “How can I make my employees feel that they are not viewed as merely headcount or resources to the company?” “What more can I do as their leader after we reach our goals?”
4. The Good Leader
This is where you hear someone say, “I stay because of my manager,” or “I’d do whatever my manager asks me to do because I trust them.”
These leaders are consistent, inclusive, and sincere. They are easy to talk to, understanding, and fair – which is why their people choose to stay with them.
There are many “good leaders” that inspire loyalty and performance from their people. But good leaders, although admirable, have a weak spot – they tend to take on huge amounts of work and responsibility.
Good Leaders tend to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They end up overburdening themselves with all of the responsibility and deflect from sharing the burden with their team members.
And by trying to do too much on their own, they fail to bring out the best efforts or enable the full contributions of their people. Ultimately, they fail to maximize human potential.
5. The For All™ Leader
“It’s a VUCA world!” was often exclaimed and used by leaders to describe the challenges plaguing the current business landscape. However, nowadays, we’ve moved from the acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity to BANI (Brittle, Anxiety, Non-Linear and Incomprehensible).
Francis Kong, renowned business speaker and one of the moderators during the Philippines’ Top 30 Leaders on LinkedIn conference I previously spoke in, hit the bull’s eye when he said, “The focus of VUCA is on the major landscape [and] expecting people to play their pieces and part. But when you take a look at BANI, you actually see that the focus now is on people.”
I interpret Francis’ take on VUCA vs. BANI as this: the changes the workplace currently faces must drive us to be more people-centric leaders or what we like to call at Great Place To Work as For All™ leaders.
So what is a For All leader?
Who and what they think about extends beyond their team. They are global thinkers who are aware of what’s going on in the world and the entire organization. They dismiss hierarchy and put each employee as a priority.
These are leaders who build great workplaces where all feel safe — psychologically, emotionally, and physically. They create an environment where people can be themselves rather than one that breeds fear.
They foster a culture of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity which ultimately inspires genuine loyalty, value-driven performances, and growth for all. These happen when there is leadership effectiveness, values are not just clearly articulated but lived by and trust anchors the organization’s culture. When these are all present, companies are then able to maximize their employees’ full potential and experience financial growth.
For All leaders create great places to work for all — one where employees regardless of their age, tenure, managerial level, or whatever demographic profile that defines them, consistently have a positive experience in their workplace.
The good news is that being a leader of a great workplace is not a function of your company’s size or industry. It’s a function of how you treat the people who work there.
It may sound counterintuitive that to effectively lead in the new world of work that is highly complex, we need to be more human. But the truth is with the rapid pace of change, disruptions, and constant innovations required, we need each other.
The challenge is for us leaders to build trust and maximize human potential. To effectively lead in a complex work environment, we need to be a For All leader.
Be a For All Leader
Our research at Great Place To Work shows that 9 in 10 employees with this type of leadership experience a great place to work nearly all the time.
The best way to understand your employee experience is by hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth — from your employees’ actual perspective. Receiving such feedback is possible with our Trust Index™ Survey.
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Antoniette Talosig is the Managing Partner of Great Place to Work® Philippines and the Lead Consultant for Singapore. Driven by her passion to help people be the best that they can be, Toni started Great Place to Work® in the Philippines with a vision to create a high-trust workplace experience for every Filipino. She has close to two decades of partnership with some government agencies, SMEs, MNCs and some Fortune 100 companies across industries and geographies. Toni believes being a mother is the greatest adventure of her life and she enjoys seeing the world with her family.