It’s a truism that performance follows leadership. Even so, many leaders fail to recognize how their leadership can undermine employee performance. Employees need a mix of honesty, communication, trust and decisiveness to perform at their best. A closer look will help to show why employees need these things to perform well.
Complexity Requires Communication
Businesses are complex and that complexity increases the bigger the business gets. This problem is compounded by the fact that bigger businesses develop layers of leadership. If leadership at any level adopts an attitude that communication isn’t a big deal, that attitude will transmit to every level below. Corporate culture and strategic goals get lost in the shuffle. This leads to lost engagement, which leads directly to reduced productivity.
Trust and Performance
If employees don’t trust their superiors, it’s bad for everything from voluntary effort to staying with the business. Sadly, there is a trust crisis in contemporary business. 63% of employees don’t trust the CEO of their company. Lack of trust stems from a fundamental failure of leadership, either in effective communication or in behavior. Leaders often make unpopular decisions, like layoffs, for good reasons. Employees need to know those reasons. Otherwise, it just looks and feels like a betrayal. In other cases, leadership is just capricious and those feelings of betrayal are justified. Either scenario will sap employee morale and initiative.
Competence Requires Room to Breathe
Employees almost always require some training and full onboarding for professional positions should probably take around a year. That means a fairly high level of supervisor or managerial input during that period. Once onboarding is done, though, if that input continues it becomes micromanagement. Micromanagement signals a fundamental lack of trust in employees that makes them resentful. In the worst case scenario, it paralyzes employees when it comes to decision making. They fail to develop true competence in their role and you can forget about ever seeing an ounce of initiative. Competence needs room to breathe and occasionally fail.
No One Likes a Bully
Absenteeism is a major economic problem for businesses, costing tens of billions of dollars annually. One of the major causes of absenteeism is bullying by coworkers or managers. Bullying in the workplace is another way that poor leadership expresses itself. The mere existence of bullying in a workplace suggests either a permissive attitude about it or a kind of inexcusable blindness to it. Although, in some cases, some managers mistake their bullying for a gung-ho leadership style. This is one area where leadership development courses can make a big difference. Leadership workshops help current and future managers identify where their leadership style may be too aggressive. It can also help them spot the signs that an employee is being bullied.
Just Make a Decision
Passive leadership can undermine employee performance. If a manager won’t make a decision, but a project or presentation requires a decision, it can force employees to make those choices. This leads to role ambiguity, where employees don’t know where their authority begins and ends. It also creates psychological stress and negatively affects well-being. Passive leadership can also end in role overload, where subordinates must assume the duties of a superior in addition to their own.
It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of leadership in relations to employee performance. When leadership fails, morale and trust evaporate, engagement drops, bullying increases and stress abounds. While no leader ever gets it right all of the time, taking steps to get it right as often as possible will translate into happier, more productive employees.