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Lack of leadership is why companies are hurting

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A major complaint from executives throughout the world is the changing work ethic and lack of commitment by employees.

With the lack of leadership today, I'm amazed we have any work ethic or commitment by employees.

Employees rebel against the authoritarian leadership style and if they are forced to endure it, they are probably performing at a maximum of 20 percent capacity. Nor do they want the "flavor of the month" new management technique.

People want to be led; they want leaders with human values and respect for people's unique talents and the contributions they can make. Employees want leaders who will create an environment that nurtures excellence, risk taking and creativity.

And what do they get?

Managers who intimidate, manipulate and lie.

How many times have we heard management proclaim, "Our greatest asset is our employees"? In 1995 a national survey found that 73 percent claim that employees were their company's greatest asset. This same survey found that 98 percent of executives agreed that improving employee performance would significantly increase company productivity.

But when asked to rank business priorities, these same executives relegated investing in people to fifth place on a six-item list.

Success in the future depends on people, and in order to achieve success, people depend on leaders. What we need in all walks of life and all endeavors is leadership.

Robert H. Rosen, in his book, "Leading People," has identified eight principles of successful leaders. When integrated together, they form wisdom in action.

    Vision: Leaders need to develop the vision for the enterprise and articulate it to the entire organization. This creates a common purpose with everyone working toward a common goal. This communication needs to be face-to-face, not videos, publications or large meetings. For frontline employees this means their supervisors, not the CEO or the executive team.

    Trust: Without trust, vision becomes an empty slogan. Asking employees to take risk, be entrepreneurial and give up the known for the unknown requires a strong foundation of trust.

    Managers and employees view change differently. Senior managers consistently misjudge the effect of this misunderstanding, and do not understand the effort required to instigate change.

    Nordstrom Inc. issues its workers just one instruction: "Use your good judgment in all situations." For employees to trust their leaders, their leaders must walk the talk. To talk about change without any visible change in the behavior of the leaders is like shoveling sand against the tide.

    Participation: The leader's challenge is to unleash the intellectual capacity of the organization - getting everyone involved. That makes each employee responsible for the success or failure of the company.

    Learning: Studies show that companies that train workers and give them a stake in the business are more profitable than those who do not. Paying attention to what many analysts term the soft side of business - developing skills in management leadership and interpersonal areas of communication - is the real key to a successful change in management strategy. Make a decision to become a superior learning organization and apply this knowledge to create real customer value.

    Diversity: Today's leader has a deep appreciation for people's differences. His definition goes beyond age, gender and ethnicity, and includes differences in lifestyle, religious beliefs, working habits and personalities. The best leaders are not threatened by individuality. As a result, people who retain things that are important to them make far more committed employees.

    Different people require different forms of leadership. And, what's the most important thing in diversity? Having a culture of respect. The leader understands that people who feel equal and respected are likely to deliver superior performance.

    Creativity: In today's fast-paced world, creativity is essential. The best leaders focus on the strengths of a company's employees and helps them manage their weaknesses. The greatest contribution a leader can make to an employee is to help him discover his talents and how those talents relate to the job at hand. Create the environment for people to experiment, take risks and fulfill their creative potential. The secret is to discover what people do well and ask them to do more of it.

    Integrity: Today's leader is a person of authenticity, honesty and integrity. He stands for something. Companies with ethical reputations attract the best employees. They also attract and retain loyal customers.

    Most leaders, I believe, want to be ethical; but in business there is a constant challenge involving conflicts and compromises and doing the right thing isn't always easy. So when it comes to ethics, the leader must show people the way. Leaders never sacrifice their long-term benefit for some immediate short-term gain by compromising their ethics.

    Community: Today's leader does not just measure success in terms of profitability of the enterprise or individual earnings. He measures his success by what he does for others. Leaders, by caring beyond themselves, find a deeper sense of self-fulfillment and gratification by the contribution they make to their community and the world at large. Leaders and their companies receive incalculable returns by engaging with their communities.

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Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.

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