At ThoughtfulLeader.com, I write a lot about how leaders should pay attention to the behaviour and relationships within their teams. The focus for a leader should be on making sure their team members can perform their role well. This is all well and good, but what about how leaders themselves feel? Leadership engagement really matters, because if you aren’t leading yourself well, you won’t lead a team well, either.
It may seem like Thoughtful Leaders need to be self-sacrificing and focused solely on their teams. While this is partly true, we should never lose sight of ourselves during this process. Failing to monitor our own wellbeing will only result in burnout and unhappiness.
This will eventually lead to issues within your team, too. Let’s look at some specifics of why leadership engagement really matters.
1. Leadership engagement creates better role models
Like it or not, leaders are role models for their teams. If a manager gets angry and bullies others, this sets the standard of behaviour in the team. If a leader openly thinks that everyone outside of their team are incompetent, this will become the prevailing team attitude.
Engaged leaders make for better role models, because they care about the impression they make. They monitor their own behaviour and keep themselves in check.
Disengaged leaders, on the other hand, are more likely to show less care in how they lead others. When you’re disengaged, the high standards you used to set for yourself can often slip. Before you know it, you’re taking a sick day when you’re not sick. You’re missing meetings. You’re venting openly about how much you hate Pam from the marketing department.
And that’s what your team will start to do, too. Is that what you want?
2. Leadership engagement keeps standards high
Remember when you cared about the quality of the work that your team completed? You made sure your team did things just right and covered off all bases. Now, you care just a little bit less. You’re sick of your job, you feel tired and stressed.
“Does it really matter?”, you find yourself thinking. Before you know it, the rigorous checking and quality control your team used to perform just isn’t happening. And you don’t really care. Before long, your team doesn’t care either and you’re all starting to look fairly ineffective.
Sometimes when leaders are disengaged, they have trouble keeping their work ethic and quality standards high. But they did matter at one point, they’ve just forgotten the reasons why, or those reasons just don’t seem so important any more.
3. Leadership engagement stops the self-defeating behaviour spiral
So you’re working on some project or initiative with your team. You’re sick of it and you’re feeling pretty bummed about work right now. Your boss wants the regular status report that he gets every month. And you know he doesn’t like it if it’s late. You know this. But you don’t really care right now.
So you let it slide just for a few days until you can be bothered getting around to it. You know you’ll get a stern talking to and you know it won’t look good, but you just can’t summon the energy to care.
Hands up if you’ve ever done something like this. Where you know it’s bad, but you just don’t care and you do it anyway. My hand is up! I have. When I’ve been disengaged and unhappy at work.
The problem with these lapses of leadership behaviour is that they reinforce a negative spiral. In the previous example, you don’t get the report in on time. Then your boss gets angry at you. Then you’re angry and you take it out on your team. You are just creating problems for yourself.
Make sure you monitor your behaviour for signs of this self-defeating spiral. It’s a killer and can signal the death-knell for many leaders who can’t pull themselves out of it.
4. Leadership engagement helps you walk the talk
You’ve probably all heard the saying “Do as I say, not as I do”. Personally, I hate this statement. Leaders who say this are setting a terrible example for the people around them.
It means they can’t be bothered doing things properly, but still expect others to. Disengaged leaders have trouble walking the talk because their standards of quality and behaviour have slipped.
So they are making a last ditch effort to try to get their team to do the right thing, even though they can’t muster the enthusiasm themselves.
When leaders are engaged, their words are more likely to match their actions. This will give the impression of being more credible and trustworthy. This is the standard you want to set for your team.
That’s all great, but how do I stay engaged as a leader?
This is a difficult question, because every leader and manager is different. However, the main thing you can do is be mindful of how you feel day to day and make sure you are looking after yourself.
All of these things help to improve the way your team functions. Because when your team is working well, you are leading well and will reap the rewards for that. But you need to be aware that all of those things that you are putting in place for your team are important for you as well.
Every leader operates in different contexts. To your team, you are the leader. But when you’re with your boss, you’re an employee. Even the CEO doesn’t seem so powerful when he’s speaking with his Board of Directors or dealing with company shareholders.
Make sure the things you do for your team are in place for you too. You need conditions that help you remain motivated. A clear role definition. Autonomy. Workplace flexibility. To be rewarded with things that matter to you.
You need support. Just like your team. So, look out for yourself and your team has the greatest chance of success.
Originally published at www.thoughtfulleader.com on October 29, 2017.
Author: Ben Brearley
Leader, MBA, coach and former management consultant passionate about developing thoughtful, effective leaders. Find me at https://www.thoughtfulleader.com