Great Workplaces Arise From Great Leaders
Erika Andersen, Founder/Partner
I’ve been working with a number of clients lately on how to improve their working environments. It’s exciting to see that many senior executives are starting to realize that a having a positive, supportive, honest workplace is key to productivity. It seems obvious when you say it out loud—but it so often gets lost in translation; organizations where leaders may be well-intended, but the environment is characterized by confusion, fear, selfishness, dishonesty or lack of appreciation.
And I’ve noticed that the quality of the workplace mostly comes back to leaders. I’ve seen a really strong correlation between ‘followable’ leaders and good environments. That is, when most of the key leaders in an organization are far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy, they create organizations that are good to work in. It makes sense; those are the attributes people look for in a leader before they’ll fully commit to that person’s leadership, because those attributes say to us: “this person will be safe to follow; he or she has a higher likelihood of leading us to succeed as a group.” In other words, we believe that leaders with those attributes will establish the conditions required to succeed…and we’re right.
My nephew Spencer shared a great article from Inc.com on our Leading So People Will Follow LinkedIn group the other day, 6 Roadblocks to an Exceptional Workplace. As I read, I realized that the six obstacles that the author, Nancy Mobley, noted all arose from failures in these core leadership attributes. Her first two, “no strategic hiring plan,” and “small thinking” happen when leaders aren’t far-sighted, when they’re focused only on the day-to-day and aren’t thinking about the kind of organization they want to create. Three of the roadblocks she mentioned, “undervaluing employees,” “lack of communication” and “worklife imbalance” arise from a lack of generosity: leaders not understanding the power of sharing information, credit, power, and consideration. Her final roadblock “no accountability,” is a failure of courage – leaders who shy away from the hard work of making sure that everyone knows what’s expected of them and gets honest feedback about whether or not they’re doing it.
A leader’s passion, wisdom and generosity support the creation of a great workplace, as well. When leaders are both deeply committed and open to alternatives—truly passionate—it invites everyone to be passionate in response—and the workplace comes alive. When leaders are wise—reflective and thoughtful about important decisions, and actively engaged in thinking and talking about doing the right things, not only for the business, but for employees, and for society—it creates an environment that feels deeply safe and supportive. And trustworthy leadership is foundational to a great workplace: when leaders tell the truth and deliver on their commitments (or say why they can’t and what they’ll do instead), it creates an environment that feels solid and reliable, one where people don’t have to retreat into self-protectiveness.
Great leaders establish good workplaces. So if you’re a leader and you’re not happy about the kind of environment that exists in your organization—tag, you’re it. It’s up to you to change the environment; start by becoming the best leader you can be.