One way to instantly see if your workforce is being effectively managed is to ascertain how they feel about work.
Starting with the basics, it is without doubt that the relationship workers have with their immediate line managers is the one that can impact most on their wellbeing. The relationship can be the key to happiness, positivity, commitment, productivity and performance. The good news is that this skill can be developed and honed, resulting in optimum working efficiency. Therefore, it is well worth the investment in your leaders, at all levels. We suggest that at its very basic level leadership can be broken down into just three elements. These are, knowing yourself, knowing your people and knowing your business.
One of the most popular frameworks of leadership is that of transforming leadership. Initially coined by James Downton in 1973 following his research into charismatic leadership, it was influenced largely by Bernard Bass, and his instrumental book Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations. Bass established what it was about leadership that inspired extra ordinary achievement and contributions of extra-role effort. He explored what were the traits that great leaders seem to have; concluding with four major tenets. These leadership attributes, commonly known as the 4 ‘I’s’, are:
It may be helpful here to explain what these words are describing before we suggest a simplified and usable version.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” (Einstein, in Lau, 2011)
Idealised Influence is a description that conjures up faith and respect in your leader. It suggests charisma, devotion, awe and emotional attachment. Broadly speaking we suggest that charismatic leaders are attractive to followers, and make people feel good in their work, linking solidly to meaning and purpose. We simplify this as Credibility. In other words, what credibility has this leader in the eyes of the follower.
Inspirational Motivation. To inspire and motivate are attributes all leaders must possess. Communication skills and effective engagement is key to success here. Looking at our first point, leaders do not necessarily have to be charismatic to inspire others, they can have deep values, be highly ethical, champion a cause and such like descriptions. People high on this are highly committed; whether that be to the organization, or a cause, or of course both. People can be inspired both intellectually and emotionally, through feelings, thoughts, needs and the ability to attach and align to their own meaning and purpose. When people see this in others we suggest it forms a bond, and in leadership this can be a powerful bond.
Intellectual Stimulation. Work needs to be challenging. We often hear of burnout, but rust out is very real also. This occurs when employees become bored or tiresome, when the work does not challenge them either physically, mentally; or both. The role of the leader can really make the difference, providing the much-needed links to meaning and purpose. Individualized Consideration. This active element of leadership indicates that, like most things that impact on wellbeing, it requires time, energy, consideration and a deep sense of caring for others. This is borne out in the feelings of the recipients of this caring. The ability of certain leaders to instil in others these feelings of personal focus can be very powerful. We simplify this as caring.
Simplification of Transformational Leadership Traits
Transformational Leadership has more research than all other leadership theories combined (Judge and Bono, 2000). However, the language can be viewed as complex and difficult to interpret for operational leadership use. We feel by simplifying it as above, the key tenets can be understood with greater clarity and utilized in organizations across the breadth of the management structure. It is critical to most organizations to have the right people in leadership roles.
Leadership is probably one of the hardest concepts to get right in the workplace, being almost a constant balancing act. What is commonly accepted is that positive leadership behaviors impact positively on wellbeing, and negative leadership behaviours impact negatively. We suggest Wellbeing provides a lens by which to make sense of the complexity of leadership, and thus renders it a useful tool for viewing and arranging work to the benefit of the workforce.
Ian Hesketh, PhD and Sir Cary Cooper, CBE are the authors of WELLBEING AT WORK: How to Design, Implement and Evaluate an Effective Strategy (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Both are associated with the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work (UK).
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