03 Jan Is There One Measure for Leadership Effectiveness?

What can you do now that only you can do?

Short Answer – Focus the right amount of time in the right way on Strategy, Financials, Operations, the Market/Clients, and People.

Long Answer

Peter Drucker famously wrote, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, “…voluntary quits increased by 10.4 percent, contributing more to the increase in total separations than involuntary layoffs and discharges…”

If I had to pick one metric to determine leadership effectiveness it would be retention – that is, someone who has followers.   Every employee in this country is ultimately a volunteer, and more and more they’re choosing to look for greener pastures.

A few hard questions for you:

  • When discussing metrics, do you say, “Improve retention” or “Decrease turnover”?
  • Do you know what your retention rate was for your employees in the last year?
  • Do you know why they left? The real reasons? According to a study by Accenture:
    • They don’t like their boss (31%)
    • They’re not empowered (31%)
    • Internal politics (35%)
    • Not recognized for their work (43%)
  • What’s the average tenure for you’re A, B and C players?
  • Do you know how much turnover has cost you? Are you able to quantify the costs of recruiting, training, having others carry more workload, opportunity costs, etc.?
  • Do you have a comprehensive plan in place that supports retention in terms of Structure, Process, Incentives, Systems, and Strategy?
  • If you say that the people who quit needed to go, why weren’t your leaders actively managing those people out?
  • Do you have development plans in place to elevate B players to A status, and plans for A players to take on more responsibility? Are you regularly talking about succession with regard to growth plans?

Retention is the linchpin many CEO’s are struggling with. Effective business is effective people working together for a common goal. It’s the combination of real results and behaviors that reflect shared values – aka Performance.

Engaged employees are everything, and they assume ownership of their own development (self-reliant, resilient, disciplined, driven and determined):

  • They embrace adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • The actively learn from mentors, coaches, bosses, and by observing others from afar.
  • They “Hear the unheard” by reflecting on the surrounding environment and their inner voice. They don’t need a course per se to work on those things, and ultimately, it’s all about character. Confucius, Aristotle, Aquinas, the Bushido Samurai code, the Bhagavad-Gita, and others ascribed to six core virtues:
  1. Courage – Aristotle said, “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” And… “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.”
  2. Wisdom – Socrates stated, “To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.”
  3. Justice – “If we expect others to rely on our fairness and justice we must show that we rely on their fairness and justice.” ― Calvin Coolidge
  4. Humanity – “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
  5. Temperance – You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” ― Marcus Aurelius
  6. Transcendence – “Never forget: we walk on hell, gazing at flowers.” ― Kobayashi Issa

To support engagement, take a page from Gallup’s employee engagement work based on more than 30 years of in-depth behavioral economic research involving more than 17 million employees. From the 12 core elements Gallup identified, there are 6 that cost you nothing, yet are predictors of employee and workgroup performance.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me?
  2. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  3. In the last week, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  4. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  5. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?
  6. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

So is there one measure of leadership effectiveness? Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” How do you measure courage in yourself? How do you measure courage in others? To change your world, what must you change in yourself? The best tool for measuring progress might just be a mirror…


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