Whether you aspire to a leadership role in any facet of life or not, there is undeniably a huge need for and gap of leaders, and leadership, in the world. Regardless of whether we are talking about political leadership or business leadership, the evidence is gathering that we are becoming a society of number crunchers, profit seekers, re-engineering specialists, technocrats, and change management gurus, driven by bottom line results.
Yes, of course, we are in a rapidly changing world, and progress, which has taken on its own breath like “the law” or “democracy” has been used frivolously and irresponsibly to mask the collateral impact that its forward movement has had on people. Where there is the opportunity for financial gain for a few, there is the opportunity for disengagement from the majority. Where the focus is on process mapping, lean design, and greater profitability, there is the widening gap between those doing the work and generating revenue, and those creating and managing excel spreadsheets.
This is occurring across many industries and the talent acquisition industry is not exempt; where the void of leadership is surprisingly significant, given that this industry is a “people business”. But what is the real issue. In a recent presentation at the “World of Business Ideas” conference, Travis Bradbury speaks specifically to the issue he sees as being at the core of the issue. Bradbury speaks about the absence of “emotional intelligence” or what I will call “emotional engagement” once an individual reaches a certain level of the organizational hierarchy. Put in another way, people are promoted into management positions that require responsibilities they are not emotionally prepared to carry out, top among those responsibilities is leading and developing people.
Thus, the conflict arises between the demands of the business and senior management expectations to drive results and the seemingly secondary focus of engaging with and developing the very people they have been promoted to lead. Perhaps, given the apparent windfall that awaits individuals in management roles in the form of bonuses, prospective promotions, status, and an increasing role in the strategic conversations of the company, the role of leader and the concept of leadership is but a pipedream as more and more focus is being spent on managing results.
I recently overheard a conversation in a shopping mall where two apparent co-workers were having a discussion over coffee. As I passed by them I nearly stopped in my tracks as I overheard the following comment by one of the participants of this conversation. She said, “This management team does not get it. If the employees continue to leave, the client will lose out on a lot of experience and wisdom and very few to do the work. So if the managers do not start to lead and care about the people they are charged to lead and manage, they may find themselves on their own, without anyone to manage.”
There is lots to be said in what this concerned and passionate woman expressed. The majority of people aspire to do better. Doing well and contributing is in their DNA. If you give people the license to contribute to the organization they work for in a way that is meaningful to them, and create a culture of leadership for them to do that in, the results will take care of themselves.
Perhaps Richard Branson, a multi-billionaire, champion of the worker, a very successful businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist has the right idea. He believes that “Your employees are your greatest asset. Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers.” Every company in the history of business that has followed this or a similar philosophy coupled with business practices that support employees has had long term success and greater profitability. Maybe they know something the rest of us should latch onto.