Someone asked me recently what I wish organizational leaders did differently after all the consultations I have done. I have been mulling on that so here goes:
I wish more leaders cared about the health and vitality of their staff. There is frankly no good excuse for an unhealthy workplace or unappreciated staff. If we cannot create a healthy work environment we don't deserve to have staff working for us. If we are going to lead we must make the health of our staff one of our highest priorities.
I wish more leaders understood how important it is to clarify who the organization is, where it is going and how it is going to get there. The truth is that our staff deserve this clarity. The other truth is that without that clarity we don't know where we are going. And if that clarity simply resides in the head of the leader it is not understood by those who need to understand. If we are going to lead we need to be clear about what is important.
I wish more leaders were willing to empower others rather than to control others. Leaders who control, micromanage or make decisions others should be making are unempowering leaders who are treating their staff poorly. It is usually a sign of threatened and insecure leaders! Those who cannot empower should not lead and don't deserve to have staff working for them.
I wish more leaders paid greater attention to their own Emotional Intelligence (EQ). It's health or dishealth directly impacts their staff. Too many leaders are defensive, don't allow candid dialogue, marginalize those who disagree with them, don't listen, don't ask questions and cannot handle push-back. What they get in return are people who don't tell them when the emperor has no clothes because staff know they won't hear or don't want to hear. They are poorer leaders and people because of it.
I wish more leaders paid attention to their personal and professional growth. The quality of leadership depends on the quality of our spiritual, emotional, relational and skill health yet so many leaders have no development plan. They are too busy leading to become better leaders! Eventually those who don't pay attention to growth hit a wall and can no longer lead well. That could have been avoided if they had paid attention to the right things along the way.
I wish more leaders would ask their key reports how they could lead better and what their reports wish were different. Because most leaders don't ask they simply remain ignorant to issues that they should be aware of. It takes courage to ask but if we really care about the health of our staff or team we will. If we are not courageous enough to ask we are really saying that it is not important to us and that is a sad statement. Unfortunately many will never ask.
What is interesting about this wish list is that the burden of poor leadership falls to one group - our staff. The blessing of good leadership falls also to staff. How we lead directly impacts all those who work in our organization. I meet too many staff who live with the burden rather than the blessing.
(Written from Berlin, Germany)