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In the absence of engaging leadership, what fills the gap?

Author: Andy Wong , Board Consultant at Parker Shaw  

What makes for engaging leadership. There is little doubt that this is an interesting and turbulent time in the political and business world – perhaps too interesting for some. Many appear to be alarmed about decisions that have been made, or are disturbed by the lack of clear leadership.  

In my view, real success comes from engaging and inclusive leadership practices. This provides a powerful combination in both business and politics, which will win the hearts and minds of those you seek to influence.  

Engaging leadership is hard work to achieve and difficult to find. It requires commitment, time and emotional intelligence. It takes empathy, coaching skills and a real understanding of human behaviour to bring out the best in others.  

How many leaders truly display engaging leadership on a day to day basis, and what happens when they fail?      

In my experience, it is commonplace and easier for leaders and managers to drive themselves and their teams through many technically and practically focused tasks. This is part of a 'doing more doing' approach. It generates short, sharp results, which of course are vital, but it does not always create a sustainable culture of high performance. It results in a prevalent leadership style built on charisma, rhetoric and a compulsion for results, but not always built on a genuine focus on people. And it is certainly not engaging.  

This rhetoric and power-based style is often mistaken for engagement by many. It is what commonly replaces the gap in really effective leadership, and it definitely does not support any true and sustainable change.  

It is hardly surprising that if we do not invest time in engaging with our people, ensuring their opinion is heard, allowing them a voice, and coaching them to give their best, this is the poor result. 

The answer to filling this gap is leaders and managers who invest the time to truly engage their workforce in change and continuous improvement. Experience shows this to be the best way, even if it isn’t the easiest route. This is especially true in large-scale transformation programmes. Engaging leaders can generate more ideas, improve innovation, and gain greater discretionary effort, allowing teams to have a say in their future. 

I have found that doing it ‘with’ them and not ‘to’ them is what really counts.