“The science of leadership is well established.” So says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London. This premise enables him to conclude, “There is no real need to advance it in order to improve real-world practices. We should focus instead on applying what we already know, and ignoring what we think we know that isn’t true.” (“What Science Tells Us About Leadership Potential”, taken from HBR.)
That makes it sound so simple. Would that it were so! Given the professor’s own statements that, “Its key studies are unfamiliar to most people, including an alarmingly large proportion of those in charge of evaluating and selecting leaders” and “This science-practitioner gap explains our disappointing state of affairs”, we appear to have a major problem.
Several questions spring instantly to mind.
- If the science of leadership is so well established, why isn’t it more widely known?
- Why aren’t the people who need to be more aware of it, at the very least, more familiar with it?
- What is the stuff “we know for sure that isn’t true” and why isn’t it being identified and eradicated?
Lack of employee engagement costing the US economy $550 billion a year in lost productivity is reason enough to give the subject greater prominence. Unfortunately that is an aggregate figure and individual businesses either don’t recognise it as a problem affecting them or – if they do – are unable to do much to change it: something which itself demands taking stronger action.
Let’s take the blinkers off and admit the problem affects you, and to the same extent as the USA. And, to take this macro-economic figure and translate it into a realistic number for your business, let’s assume a simple formula of:
Lost Profit = (Profit/Engaged %) x Disengaged %
With only 30% of the employees engaged, and assuming you made a profit of $1.5 million, the cost of your lost productivity would be:
(1,500,000/30%) x 70%
(You can double check that by saying that if you had 100% employee engagement your profits would be $1.5 million divided by 30% multiplied by 100% or $5 million, and the difference between $5 million and $1.5 million is $3.5 million.)
This means you are leaving an awful lot of money – more than twice what you are actually making – on the table! You have to think this makes employee engagement a major problem; especially when – as the professor points out – it is poor leadership that makes employees feel disengaged. Consequently there is a pressing need to find answers to those earlier questions.
Thinking about possible solutions I cannot help thinking about small children and the lessons they teach us. I have often previously cited their need for independence, but that lesson is being brought home vigorously right now by my two year old grandson. His response to being asked to do anything is, “Self do it!” It seems to me that epitomizes engagement and identifies the essential ingredients for practical leadership.
The quantities are up to you and depend on the situation, but you need to supply:
- The purpose for learning and development
- The encouragement that builds perseverance and persistence
- The opportunities for application; understanding that mastery takes practice.
- The recognition of the effort that is being put in with rewards that are commensurate.
- The provisions (environment and tools) that nurture self-development.
Only when you blend all these together, will you close the gap and create a cultural environment where ‘Every Individual Matters’ and knows it, and consequently is an engaged employee and a natural leader, able to take full responsibility for their role and what they need to accomplish it: a critical requirement for today’s fast-paced economy.
If you like what you have read contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model can provide the catalyst to help you create an organisational culture of ‘Love at Work’ : one where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, so embracing change and transforming – and sustaining – organisational performance.
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.