As I was discussing leadership topics during a recent graduate class, I proposed the question, what is the incentive for people to be great leaders? Lets be honest, being a leader can be a thankless job most of the time. In my career, it is rather typical of Engineers to avoid management at all costs. They don't see any benefit from taking that career path, they see hard work, long hours and little in the way of rewards. The hard work consists of problem solving, counseling, coaching and negotiation. Items that usually don't show up as financial KPI's for the corporation, at least not directly.
Managers can get by without any leadership skills and deliver results, although I would argue that these results will be short sighted and unsustainable. Quite honestly, this happens all too often. How many managers have you seen promoted without one minute of leadership training? To lead a high performing team, over the long haul, is what we all should strive for. More importantly, this is what corporations should be focused on preparing their managers for.
According to a poll of US workers by Parade, 35% of employees would forgo a "substantial" raise in pay just to see their current manager fired. Putting it another way, 1 out of every 3 employees would "pay" to see their manager removed. To me, that is staggering to consider. This kind of statistic should bother us, the system is broken.
Another statistic from the 2013 Gallup study on "The State of the American Workplace," says that 70% of workers are not actively engaged at work. Good leaders create an atmosphere of engagement for their team. This statistic is just another glaring indicator of poor leadership. Its been said, most workers will leave a manager, rather than a company. Poor leadership is chasing away good people.
Why do we have so many managers, gainfully employed, who just don't get it? Is it training? Do they possess the proper skills to be a good leader? Is it indifference? Do they just not care enough about being a good leader? Are they blind to their shortcomings? Are they receiving the proper feedback and coaching? Are they recognized and rewarded for their efforts? Do we have the proper performance indicators in place for leadership? These are tough questions, but ones we should be asking.
I believe most companies are blind to the hidden costs of poor leadership. How do we measure that? Some of it, like the cost to replace an employee have been closely examined, but figures vary. What about the unforeseen costs? Those ripple effects that propagate from the source. It reminds me of the quote by Dr. Deming, "the most important things are unknown and unknowable."
In an ideal world, managers should be drawn to leadership for unselfish reasons. To serve a greater good, to be part of something larger than themselves. Great leadership comes from a place of servitude to the team and ultimately the organization. We should be selecting our leaders, not based on their technical expertise, but by their ability to serve and a desire to be a great leader.
In the movie Miracle, about the 1980 gold medal winning US Olympic hockey team, Herb Brooks is asked by his assistant coach why he is passing over some of the best players available? His response was, "I'm not looking for the best players. I'm looking for the right ones." When you choose your leaders, look for the right ones. Lastly, once you have given them the tools (train them) to succeed, you must reward your good leaders for their efforts. Your company will be better for it in more ways than you'll ever know.