Are you an inspiring leader to work for?

As I promised last week, this is the first in a very practical series of blog posts focusing on practical aspects of leadership: Why is it important? What does it mean and how can you do it?

If you did not read last week’s post, you might want to read that first – you will find it here.

I have over time become aware that many of you find that the management part of your job is pretty clear and relatively straight forward but as for the leadership aspect, it sometimes feels fluffy.

So let’s take the fluffiness out of leadership and make it very practical and hands on.

Over the next month, we are going to cover three main leadership themes: Inspiring others, Leading my team and Developing my people.

So starting with inspiration, we need to understand why being an inspiration to your followers is an all important part of your leadership skills.

Below is a graph that illustrates how the hierarchy of employee’s needs looks.


lEmployee needs pyramid

At the bottom, we have the foundational stuff. Without that being in place, we don’t even get basic satisfaction. This is more or less all basic management stuff that you are probably (hopefully) already doing. The next level, on the other hand, is where your leadership skills start to make a difference and what drives engagement. Finally, we have the top layer – Inspiration which is driven by the style of leadership you are providing.

There are, as you can see on the graphic, two aspects to Inspiration. There is the Vision/Mission for your company, department or whatever. That should answer the question: Are we trying to achieve something that is meaningful? And secondly it is about you. Are you the sort of person that inspires followership?

So why is this important?

Well if you are the sort of persona that likes the fluffy soft to be backed up by hard facts then take a look at the graph below.

Inspiration drives productivity

At the end of the day, this is about productivity. People who are inspired produce twice as much as people who are just satisfied with their job. If you check out the Gallup engagement scores, you will see that around 63% of employees are not particularly engaged in the job. So from a leadership point of view, there is plenty of room for improvement in most places.

This is a pet subject of mine as you may have noticed. When we are talking Service Profit Chain implementation, employee satisfaction as such is not particularly interesting. What counts at the end of the day is enthusiasm and engagement.

But productivity is just one aspect of why being inspirational.  The other aspect is linked to rapidly changing demographics – all the indicators are clear, within a few years we are going to be scrambling to find the employees we need.

In Northern Europe especially, the stats are clear. Soon we will see that for every four people that leave the industry (pension, age etc), only one new young person signs up. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

So you basically have two choices. Try and automate like crazy – but that does not provide especially breathtaking service experiences, nor are they easy to differentiate from the other offerings out there. Or you can choose to create a place to work that stands head and shoulders above everyone else in your region and therefore become the employer of first choice. Too bad for the rest but you will do fine.

So hopefully you now see my point – focusing on what it will take to provide an inspirational environment for your people is a strategic issue and you need to get better at it than your closet competitor. Or if you look at it from a career point of view, managers who understand how to do this are going to be in high demand.

So what does it take to become inspirational? That is the theme for next week’s blog post.

In the mean time, I would like you to reflect a bit on what bosses you have had in your career that you found inspirational and what was it they did? And of course, the opposite. Who were the absolute joy killers and what was it they did that would instantly makes us feel disengaged and lethargic?

Dream Team____________________________________________________________

This post is one of a series where we are exploring the notion of leadership and how this is different from management. Our starting point is the Service Profit Chain and the understating that the management part of our job will only take us so far. If we really want to create an organisation that is capable of delivering outstanding customer experiences, we need to develop an organisation that delivers outstanding employee experiences – and that requires leadership.