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The Missing Links in Leadership Development: Action & Engagement

The Missing Links in Leadership Development: Action & Engagement

As a former Program Manager of a Community Leadership Program I often asked our guest speakers to define leadership. I usually received some warm and fluffy textbook remarks about skills, traits and styles – followed by some cold stares. There was always something missing and everyone was seeking the same answer – including the speaker.  Why is it so difficult to define and quantify leadership? What are the missing links?

Google “What is Leadership” and you’ll get = “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.”

Have you read the 100 Answers to the Question: What Is Leadership? by Lolli Dismal? I agree with her statement “There are as many definitions of leadership as there are leaders.”  Lolli provides 100 of the best ways [quotes] to define leadership. Let’s use her top ten to help find the action and define the missing links.

Before we begin, let’s add some additional context, perspective and a game. Have you ever played word association games on twinword.com or visuwords.com or followed fortune cookie quotes or movie titles with silly sayings? Let’s use a similar word game for Lolli’s top ten leadership quotes. Read the quotes below followed by the phrase…“and let me tell you how I do that in my company.”

"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves." --Lao Tzu

"A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit."  --Arnold Glasow

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." --Martin Luther King Jr

"You don't need a title to be a leader." --Mark Sanborn

"It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership." --Nelson Mandela

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." --John F. Kennedy

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." --Ronald Reagan

"Successful leadership is leading with the heart, not just the head. They possess qualities like empathy, compassion and courage." --Bill George

"The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already." --John Buchan

“A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together."--Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Where’s the leadership beef? Are you really doing these things in your company? What is the missing link? Action! The “what to do” and “how to” execute leadership strategies, traits, skills and styles.

If you read the article “4 Ways to Define Leadership” by Sammi Caramela, you would have seen her nine descriptive leadership words and the ten types of leaders (listed below). We can test our theory once again by adding the phrase “…and let me tell you how I do that in my company…” after the words in the following two lists.

  • Decisiveness
  • Accountability
  • Optimism
  • Awareness
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Focus
  • Confidence
  • Inspiration

Source: Peter Economy, “The Leadership Guy”

  1. Coercive -- Leaders demand immediate compliance.
  2. Authoritative -- Leaders mobilize people toward a vision.
  3. Affiliative - Leaders create emotional bonds and harmony.
  4. Democratic -- Leaders build consensus through participation.
  5. Pacesetting -- Leaders expect excellence and self-direction.
  6. Coaching -- Leaders develop people for the future.
  7. Bureaucratic leadership, whose leaders focus on following every rule.
  8. Charismatic leadership, in which leaders inspire enthusiasm in their teams and are energetic in motivating others to move forward.
  9. Servant leadership, whose leaders focus on meeting the needs of the team.
  10. Transactional leadership, in which leaders inspire by expecting the best from everyone and themselves.

Source: Research published in Harvard Business Review in 2000 and an article on Mind Tools in Sammi Caramela’s article.

Companies offering leadership development services often focus on the skills, traits and styles – not the strategy or daily actions.

What else is missing? Engagement.  A search for Leadership on Wikipedia and you may notice Bernard Bass’s “transformational type of leadership” was missing from the list of above. Transformational leadership is based on “concern for employees, intellectual stimulation, and providing a group vision.” (i.e., Engagement). The data and research provided in our Business Case for Engagement & the Economics of Enterprise Engagement study proves beyond a reasonable doubt that leadership needs to be involved in improving employee engagement – to improve business performance.  Improving engagement levels should be a primary strategy and goal for leaders, managers and employees.

A properly designed engagement strategy and program creates an action-based roadmap that explains and communicates the “Who-What-When-Where-Why & How Much” it takes to accomplish company “leadership” and “engagement” objectives. With permission, we used Kouzes and Posner’s Five Practices® of The Leadership Challenge1 as an overlay and linked it to Evolve Performance Group’s Employee Engagement Survey & Training Program methodology. This graphic illustrates how using our engagement program as the underlying quality management process can help leaders execute their strategy, skills, traits and styles on daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. The execution of leadership strategies and objectives – all for the price of one nice lunch per employee per year.


Leadership Challenges and Employee Engagement


The above graphic helps define an actionable approach to “…and let me tell you how I do that in my company…”. Evolve Performance Group's Employee Engagement programs provide the critical and often missing links to leadership development – the leadership action of “what to do” and the “how to” engage employees. It does not matter what you say you will do, it matters what you do – everyday. It is not more work, it becomes how you work. It’s not an event, it is a business strategy.  A strategy to create a roadmap that helps everyone in the organization play an active role in meeting the goals established by leadership, teams and individuals.

For more information about Evolve Performance Group's Employee Engagement Programs, contact Burl Haigwood at bhaigwood@evolvepg.com or call 202-441-2400.

Burl Haigwood is a strategy and growth specialist for Evolve Performance Group. with experience creating, managing and selling products, services, policies, and programs to expand business opportunities. Follow him on LinkedIn.





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