Posted by: healingtheworkplace | November 6, 2011

Engaging Leaders Create Healthy and Productive Workplaces

I’m back from my trip to the UK (fabulous) and have been teaching a leadership course at Douglas College for the past couple of weeks…which got me thinking about employee engagement and leadership.

If you are a leader and are interested in engaging your
workforce you might want to start by asking yourself, “What kind of leader am

You need to ask yourself this question because it is up to
you (bottom line) to create the culture in which everyone can perform at
his/her best. Not an easy challenge.

Between 1930, when the first formal studies of leadership
began, until the 1970s, the role of leaders was to maintain the ‘status quo’
and create and maintain order. During that time leaders were expected to rule
with authority and this authority was rarely challenged and certainly not by
their ‘subordinates’.

Our expectations of leaders have changed over the years. So
have the challenges that leaders face. Today leadership is much more challenging! How’s that for an understatement?

Today the world is more complex and change is rapid and
continuous. And the people who do the work (call them subordinates, followers,
or stakeholders) expect a very different style of leadership—they expect to be

In 2008 the CIPD in the UK released a research paper on leadership and engagement. The report cited a 2005 Towers Perrin survey of 85,0000 people in large and  mid-size organizations in 16 countries around the world.  Towers and Perrin found that those organizations with high employee engagement levels also experienced a higher operating margin, net profit, revenue growth and earnings, than organizations with low engagement.

In the public sector high employee engagement translates into lower costs in the following areas:

  • absenteeism
  • staff turnover
  • training

Towers Perrin (2005) also found that

 “many people are keen to contribute more to work but their managers behaviour and the culture of
their organizations is actively discouraging them from doing so.”

Speaking of organizational cultures, I just read, in the Vancouver Sun, that
Microsoft has topped the list of best multinationals to work for. Microsoft is
at the top of this list because it has created a ‘trust-based’ culture.  Trust is the ‘glue’ that holds everything together.

Trust is the foundation of an engaged workplace culture.

How do leaders engage employees?

Here is a rather daunting list of knowledge and skills to help you become a more engaging and transformational leader (in no particular order):

  • Show genuine concern for others
  • Enable others to do their best work
  • Be accessible and transparent
  • Encourage questioning
  • Act with integrity (are trustworthy)
  • Be honest and consistent (walk the talk)
  • Network and stay connected
  • Build a shared vision
  • Resolve complex issues
  • Facilitate change sensitively
  • Inspire others
  • Be a team players
  • Be decisive
  • Support a culture of learning and development

What struck me as I read this list was that the reason
leadership is so difficult today is that leaders have to be both
transformational (engaging) and have they also have to exercise their authority at times.

Creating a culture of engagement takes time but the rewards
are great for everyone involved in the organization.

Cheers! Lesley


  1. Lesley –
    Very nice overview of the importance of engagement and what it takes.
    I focus on building support for change in organizations with special attention to resistance. If people followed the advice you offer, much of resistance to change as we know it would vanish (or at least diminish considerable.)


    • Thanks Rick! I’m a fan of your work and recently bought two copies of your book, “Beyond the Wall of Resistance”. Cheers, Lesley

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