The Development a Leader Actually Needs

September 7, 2021 / Posted in ,

By Judy Farrell

The chatter around “The Great Resignation” continues to grow as the number of people quitting their jobs this year remains at a record high. The Department of Labor statistics reported a spike in quit rates in April 2021, the highest they’ve seen in 20 years. This spike is somewhat surprising considering the high unemployment rates due to the pandemic.

But is it?

Gallup – the analytical company known for their polls and research on the importance of employee engagement – recently shared that employees from all generations ranked whether an employer cared about employee well-being in the top three most important criteria they desire from an employer. 

Millennials and Gen Z ranked well-being as the most important thing they wanted from their employer.

Gallup’s newest research published in their State of the Global Workplace 2021 explains that “wellbeing includes work and all other experiences.” 

Engaging your followers at work is a start, but it is not enough. 

They further explain that “mental health, emotional strain, social isolation, financial shocks and caregiving responsibilities all influence work performance over the long term. Over time, the negative side of these experiences can lead to burnout.” 

Leaders experiencing burnout will make poorer decisions and be overall less productive and effective. This truth may seem obvious, but Gallup found that a whopping 70 percent of the variance in team engagement was due to the leader.  

Not only has the pandemic caused major burnout, but it has also caused the line between work and home to blur. Many have awakened to the fact that they no longer want to live a double life: a life where they are one person at home and a completely different person at work. They expect more from their work culture. 

They expect their leaders to care for them.

Severn Leadership Group gets this. It has always been our vision to see “a future where all experience hope, freedom, and well-being.” We define well-being as a “balanced and fulfilled life” or being “fully alive, flourishing.”

So, we are ecstatic that research is showing us what we have always known, right?

Well, yes and no. We are happy that well-being is now a topic of conversation, but we are concerned that not enough leaders know how to affect it. The typical response to any concern that is “touchy-feely” is to create a new policy, release a statement, or develop a new program.

However, Gallup hit the nail on the head when they said, “No wellbeing program will be effective until employees trust that their leaders and managers truly care about them as people.” 

But how do leaders prove that they care?

First, they start by actually caring about their followers. How does the leader view their followers? Are they a means to get work done, or are they real human beings with struggles and celebrations outside of work that shape who they are when they show up each day? 

A leader cannot care about their followers if they do not first see them as whole people.

But SLG believes that simply caring about one’s followers still falls short.  A leader must take it a step further. Leaders must love those they lead. 

To love is to serve. 

Going from caring to loving requires a shift in behavior, not just mindset. It is similar to the difference between having sympathy and compassion. To have sympathy, one feels for another. To have compassion, those feelings for another move one to act.

Love is caring in action. It is service to others. And since everyone can learn how to serve others, everyone can learn how to love others.

Until organizations begin focusing on developing their leaders’ capacity to serve others before self, they will fail to create a culture of well-being and continue to lose talented employees that have been neglected or disappointed by their leaders.

Organizations owe it to themselves – as well as to their employees – to invest in leadership development that dives deeper than management and innovation skills. They need to invest in teaching leaders how to love.

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