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Building Blocks of Successful Leadership

Being an effective leader is not easy. There is a lot that goes into being a truly effective leader. It goes far past management and positive results.

Employee satisfaction plays a vital role in your ability to lead effectively. However, giving employees the tools they need to grow and achieved success, is a huge task. Leadership engagement is one of the simplest ways to connect with your employees and improve work satisfaction.

How Do You View Leadership?

What does being a leader look like to you? There are theories and thousands of books written about leadership. For instance, in a recent survey conducted by the Harvard School Professional Development, there are about 15,000 books on leadership. However, even with all this literature, leadership takes on a unique meaning for each person. 

As a student, I worked with many different leaders. One thing that helped me to connect with and respect those leaders was their focus on leadership engagement. Not sure what I mean by leadership engagement? My favorite definition from Frontiers in Psychology is “leadership behavior that facilitates, strengthens, connects and inspires employees in order to increase their work engagement.”

Leadership engagement is an umbrella term for many things, including treating employees with respect and dignity. Understanding that your employees are people outside of work hours. In addition, it allows your employees to understand and trust you.

What Does Engagement Look Like?

One personal example of a leader who values effective leadership engagement is the President of Anderson University (AU). President John Pistole, former administrator of the Transportation Security Administration and former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, took the place of former Anderson president John Edwards in 2015.

President John Pistole, or as AU students affectionately call him PJP, was the President of AU for the duration of my undergraduate degree. One thing that always stood out was how he remembered my name and birthday. This courtesy was not only extended to me but to the entire student body. He diligently tried to learn every student’s name to foster a sense of kinship. Because of this engagement he has created relationships with the student body.

What did this accomplish? In my opinion, it created trust and respect. As students, we felt that we had a personal connection to our university President. We trusted him to make the best decisions possible. Similarly, this is an example of how leaders’ behavior can have a positive impact on their leadership. 

Connection Between Leadership and Behavior

Leadership behavior is directly correlated with employee behavior. For instance, in a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, they found that the most important trait of a leader is respect. Mutual respect assures employees that they are seen and heard. Employees who are extended respect and dignity are more satisfied with their jobs. According to the 2001 study on the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance, employees that are satisfied with their job perform better.

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How to Properly Engage

There are a couple of things you can do to improve your leadership engagement.

First, frequently check in on your employees. Second, learn about their lives outside of the workplace. Finally, foster healthy relationships to build unity. An article in Forbes by John Hall, details five tips for creating a personal bond with your employees.

  1. Communicate frequently 
  2. Go beyond “How are you?’
  3. Help each employee reach his or her goals
  4. Recognize and celebrate success
  5. Stop saying you don’t have time

Mistakes to Avoid

Truly engaging with people requires you to genuinely care about their well-being. Bringing empathy and connection into your leadership role benefits employees and makes your leadership more effective. According to Professor George Kohlriser, IMD Business School, there are ten damaging mistakes a leader can make. The very first mistake is not taking a personal interest in people’s lives. Kohlriser states, “A leader who is not interested in people on a human level is off to a bad start. A leader who is conceptually interested in others but doesn’t make time to “bond” with people misses the mark as well.”

Engaging with employees is not just about face-value communication. Bonding with people allows them to know you on a deeper level. They will understand that you will make the best possible decisions. This is not a quick process, Kohlriser says that it “takes time above and beyond pure task-oriented work.”

How are you going above and beyond to make your employees feel seen?

Make sure to check out the Stratavize blog series on leadership to learn more about how to be the most effective leader possible.

About the Author

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Rebekah Corwin is a 2021 graduate from Anderson University with degrees in Public Relations and Psychology. 

Rebekah is currently responsible for Marketing and Communications at Statavize Consulting.

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