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How To Be The Leader They STAY For

June 12, 2014

sandbergStatistics and research shows that one of the biggest threats to organizations today is losing good talent to competitors. As the global economy improves more employees are looking for better jobs and specifically in the technology industry where there is a challenge with turnover. I made a statement earlier in this book that people don’t leave their jobs they leave their leaders. So what can we do to keep our good people?


A recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that there is common leadership traits that each of the generations are looking for in their leaders. They identified sixteen leadership practices and asked the multi-generational group to rate the level of importance of each of these sixteen factors. The factors were:


  1. Leading employees
  2. Balancing personal life and work
  3. Participative management
  4. Resourcefulness
  5. Change management
  6. Compassion and sensitivity
  7. Self awareness
  8. Being a quick study
  9. Confronting problem employees
  10. Doing whatever it takes
  11. Putting people at ease
  12. Building and mending relationships
  13. Straightforwardness and composure
  14. Diversity awareness
  15. Career management
  16. Decisiveness

The top three leadership attributes most highly valued among all of the generations were:

Leading employees

Building and mending relationships

Change management

What is interesting is that the ratings were very similar regardless of generation. This would indicate that as good leadership practice the five items identified mattered the most to all of the generations surveyed.

These results will help CEO’s, senior leaders, mid level leaders and front-line managers to understand which leadership practices they should focus on when deciding on developmental opportunities, and whether those opportunities should differ by generation. Leaders in all three generations show skill deficiency in three leadership practices needed for success: their general ability to lead others (Leading Employees), their ability to facilitate organizational change initiatives and overcome resistance to change (Change Management), and their ability to understand and develop relationships and respond to coworkers and external parties diplomatically (Building and Mending Relationships). These three key areas are in need of development, regardless of generation. Leaders seeking leadership mastery, should therefore worry less about tailoring specific development for each generation, and should instead focus on developing the hallmark skills of great leadership that are necessary for success regardless of generation. When managers see that they do not possess the leadership skills or competencies they believe are important to success, this can increase their awareness and give greater focus to what they need to improve and become a better leader.

Leaders in each generational cohort have similar skills gaps in Leading Employees, Change Management, and Building and Mending Relationships. Thus, leadership development initiatives, training, and coaching should focus on enhancing these leadership skills for individuals.

In leadership practice Zoomers, Gen X , and Gen Y are more similar than they are different in their perceptions of practices, actual skill level, and perceptions-skills gaps with regard to success in organizations. Companies would do better to focus on leadership training and development gaps that exist across all generations.

So how do you rate yourself on a scale of one to ten with ten being high on the list of sixteen leadership attributes listed above?

If you are really brave are you willing to have your team evaluate you on each of these components? If you are Superman or Superwoman brave are you willing to acknowledge the feedback openly to your group, commit to taking action to improve and then report back with steps you have taken to show you are willing to grow as a leader and that you are willing to attain leadership mastery!

We discussed leadership styles in Chapter two and we looked at technology personality styles in Chapter seven. If you are a Vision leader style it is easier for you to be an inspirational leader as your personality is geared towards big picture and rallying the troops. If Vision was your second, third or fourth style you will want to develop this as research shows that people will stay for the leader that is transformational.

The Transformational leadership style focuses mainly on the ability of leaders to influence and inspire followers through their visions, creativity, goals, and actions. Bass and Avolio characterized the transformational leader behaviors as the “Four I’s”:

  1. Idealized influence
  2. Inspirational motivation
  3. Intellectual stimulation
  4. Individualized consideration

Transformational leaders motivate teams by transforming the values and priorities of team members and inspiring them to perform beyond expectations. The Four I’s of transformational leadership collectively inspire followers to achieve more than was thought possible. The impact on proactively focused teams is a result of transformational leaders encouraging followers to question assumptions and think aboutnew ways of doing tasks. Transformational leadership leads to positive individual and organizational outcomes. At the team level, research from military units in America (Bass, Avolio, Jung, & Berson, 2003) and Singapore (Um & Ployhart, 2004) has found that unit commanders’ transformational leadership predicts unit performance in operational training exercises. Research has also found that transformational leadership in research and development teams predicted superior technical quality of products produced by these teams.

One reason transformational leadership affects team proactivity is because transformational leaders encourage team self-management. Transformational leaders support individual development and inspire individuals to want to engage in more challenging tasks, and thereby promote greater collective self-management. In addition at the organizational level, CEO’s transformational leadership has been found to be positively influenced empowerment.

Individual-level proactive behaviors refers to self-starting, future-focused action in which the individual alms to change the external situation, such as improving work methods, or to change some aspect of his/her self, such as improving one’s performance by actively seeking feedback from a supervisor. Proactive behavior is more active, change oriented, and future focused than either core task performance or adaptive performance, and, as such, is particularly important in high change environments where there is a lack of predictability in the inputs, processes, or outputs of work systems.

When uncertainty is high, work-roles cannot be formalized precisely; they must emerge dynamically in response to changing conditions and demands. Following the rules is not sufficient; nor is it enough just to adapt and respond to dynamic changes. Individuals need to take charge of situations, anticipate problems before they arise, and initiate change in the work system and work-roles. Researchers have shown the importance for individual and organizational outcomes of individual-level proactivity.

Self-managing teams are interdependent groups of individuals who assume group responsibility for the day- to-day operations of the team.

Members of self-managing teams typically experience greater variety, feedback, task significance, and task identity as a result of the self-managing structure, but the most important feature is the greater collective autonomy that individuals have over their activities.

For example, self-managing production teams typically allocate tasks amongst themselves, decide on the timing of their methods, and take responsibility for aspects such as quality and machine maintenance. In essence, team self-management is a form of shared leadership focused around decision-making, with shared leadership.

Transformational leadership and self-managed teams are part of being the leader that they stay for. And you might be thinking that this is easier said than done. With focus on shifting your leadership approach you can shift the dynamics of your teams results and also diminish your stress at the same time.

An example of transformational leadership is in Jefferson University Hospital.

Nursing leaders actively encourage input from nurses at all levels. Their feedback impacts decision-making and improves patient care and safety. The Department of Nursing’s governance structure demonstrates the commitment to free-flowing, system-wide communication. These characteristics confirm the presence of Transformational Leadership at Jefferson.

“We don’t operate in silos,” explains Patricia Constanty, BSN, RNC, WHNP, CRNP. “We share experiences, research, and evidence-based practice so nurses on other units can take that information, modify it to benefit their unit, and ultimately improve patient care.”

When nurses on a unit recognize a problem or opportunity and act on it, that positive outcome doesn’t remain isolated in that unit’s “silo.” Instead, Jefferson’s unique committee structure encourages nurses to take the initiative to solve problems and share solutions.

Each nursing unit has committees for Evidence-Based Practice, Professional Development, and Quality and Research. Chairs and co-chairs of each committee participate in corresponding mid-level committees called the Staff Nurse Leadership (SNL) committees that serve as the central decision-making body for issues extending beyond the unit level. The committee structure enhances bidirectional communication as well as provides opportunities for leadership and professional development.

So how do you as a leader create autonomous self managed teams? How do you lead in a transformational way that encourages your employees to stick around longer? How do you become the leader that they stay for?

First to create a team with self managed teams there are some foundational items that need to be in place. Let me walk you through the following checklist to determine where you are now with the team’s performance.

Answer Yes or No to the following:

  1. My team consists of highly skilled people who are very technically savvy. ___ yes or ___ no
  2. My team consists of a range of skill, some are quite strong performers and others need work. ___ yes or ___ no
  3. I have more people on my team that are high performers. ___ yes or ___ no
  4. I have more people on my team who are not performing at their highest ability. ___ yes or ___ no
  5. My team has access to the resources they need to do their jobs well. ___ yes or ___ no
  6. I can go away on holiday and the team will have handled everything very well while I was away. ___ yes or ___ no
  7. I can’t go away on a holiday because I worry that my team won’t be able to do well without me. ___ yes or ___ no
  8. I have more members on my team who are excellent decision makers. ___ yes or ___ no
  9. I have more members on my team who do not make consistently good decisions. ___ yes or ___ no
  10. My team self organizes when given a project. ___ yes or ___ no

If you answered Yes to questions #1, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10 you are already in a position to create a higher level of self-managing team operation.

If you answered Yes to questions #2, 4, 7, and 9 you have some work to do to assess performance gaps and to address them prior to focusing on building a self managed team.

In order for teams to succeed at self-management you need to have foundational elements in place. Such as:

You have invested a fair amount of focus and time on developing the skills of each of your team members to increase individual performance.

You have focused on the key skills of good decision making, finding resources and technical ability.

You as a leader have backed off of over managing and have allowed the team to ‘practice’ their self management with certain lower stakes projects.

The second component of being the leader that they will stay for is managing change. As a leader this skill is critical in today’s fast pace and technological workplace. Leadership mastery requires the ability to coach, motivate and inspire everyone on the team to come along with the changes.

As we head into the fourth part of this book I will focus intently on change management and its relevance to being a transformational leader.

The third component of being the leader they will stay for is building and mending relationships. To the level you are able to connect and adapt to the various stakeholders in your workplace is the level to which you will increase retention and your own satisfaction in your performance as a leader.

Let’s look at the differences between building and mending a relationship:


Building Relationships as a Leader


Mending Relationships as a Leader



–       Connecting with others by respecting their personality and adapting to it

–       Respecting different work attitudes

–       Understanding the dynamics of generations, gender and culture

–       Genuinely liking the people who are on your team and being unbiased with those you don’t like as much



–       Being able to apologize when appropriate

–       Objectively noticing people’s behaviors and not making it personal

–       Facilitating and mediating differences of opinions on the team

–       Taking responsibility for situations that you could have influenced and didn’t as a leader



If people don’t leave their jobs and they leave their leaders you can see that building and mending relationships is a key ‘human’ component of leadership.

In my experience many leaders get caught up and consumed by the tasks, the technical aspects of the job and the drive to results. Often leaders can forget that humans, by people who have personal lives and personal challenges, who are doing the work. Transformational leaders recognize that the people on their teams are purposeful and are special and are to be treated with respect, honor and appreciation.

There are technological tools that can show appreciation and are changing the landscape of performance assessment. Old school performance reviews were an annual headache that we all participated in and they never really altered performance in a big way.

New research shows that people respond better to real time feedback and ongoing coaching and support. is a real time performance solution and has since been bought by and is now and for smaller companies there is an Australian company called Small Improvements that is also now offering real time assessment tools for organizations.

As leaders we need to appreciate, inspire and transform the people who for us and with us. This is the only way to increase retention and to be the leader they stay for.




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