A survey by Zippia revealed that over 77% of businesses report that leadership is lacking, with only 33% of employees feeling engaged.
Fewer than half of companies (49%) invest in cross-skilling and upskilling their leaders, and a mere 31% participate in leadership development programs to unearth potential leaders within their workforce.
The 2021 Global Leadership Forecast further underscores this issue, with just 11% of organizations claiming to have a robust leadership bench. The root of this crisis lies in the failure of many organizations to offer leadership development and transition training for employees.
This is an unfortunate trend as organizations find themselves confronting significant workforce shifts, high attrition rates, and dwindling engagement levels. With so many changes hitting organizations all at once, the need for effective leadership has never been greater.
Leadership matters now (more than ever) because leaders help organizations inspire and motivate team members, adapt to and manage change, set a vision for the future that unites team members with a sense of purpose, and establish a positive work environment and culture in which every team member can thrive.
In this article, I’ll explore the top reasons why leadership matters now more than ever.
Leaders Inspire and Motivate Team Members
A leader’s most important job in an organization is to inspire and motivate their team members.
Leaders inspire and motivate their teams by helping team members meet their needs and creating the necessary conditions for them to grow, achieve their potential, and produce great work. Leaders help individuals fulfill their needs by providing guidance, support, and resources.
Employee success is driven by motivation, which is crucial for employee satisfaction. Employee satisfaction propels performance, which subsequently enhances customer satisfaction. This chain reaction positively impacts profitability.
Motivated employees are more adept at adapting to change, collaborating effectively, going the extra mile for a project, customer, or colleague, and maintaining a positive work attitude. A team of highly motivated employees can also decrease turnover and absenteeism.
Managers often overlook the importance of motivation in effective leadership and ensuring the organization’s future success. Without the necessary motivation to excel, even engaged employees may not reach their full potential.
Leaders must recognize and understand what truly motivates their employees and drives engagement to best cater to their needs and engage them in their work. They should consistently strive to create the conditions necessary for their employees to remain motivated to do exceptional work and assist them in identifying and eliminating obstacles to doing great work.
Leaders Help Organizations Adapt To and Manage Change
In a world that is constantly changing, leaders play a critical role in initiating and controlling change. They assist organizations in adjusting to new situations and steering through unpredictability.
Successfully navigating change can be one of the most daunting tasks for leaders. Why is that?
For Business Leadership Today contributors Mark S. Babbit and S. Chris Edmonds, the answer is straightforward: leaders often lack the necessary experience to effectively steer change and evade common pitfalls that lead to failure.
When leaders fail to fully commit to the process, allow fear of change to hinder progress, or do not foster a culture that prioritizes respect over results, their efforts are likely to fall short. To rise to the challenge, leaders must exhibit adaptability.
Adaptable leaders are characterized by their flexibility, creativity, and problem-solving skills, and they understand how to cultivate these traits in their team members. In being adaptive, leaders not only successfully manage change—they also help their teams generate more innovation and creative solutions that can move the organization forward.
Leaders Set the Vision
Leaders offer guidance and a clear vision that unites team members with a sense of purpose and motivates them to strive for the organization’s objectives. They influence individuals to work toward common goals for the benefit of all, irrespective of their role within the organization.
As stated by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a vision aids us in visualizing our objectives and pursuing them: “A vision statement looks forward and creates a mental image of the ideal state that the organization wishes to achieve. It is inspirational and aspirational and should challenge employees.”
The vision of an organization, which is underpinned by its mission, gives employees a sense of purpose and a target to strive for beyond their daily tasks.
A vision statement is a crucial component of any organization’s strategic planning. However, it needs to be more than just a phrase on the company’s website, and leaders play an instrumental role in ensuring the vision is lived in the organization.
This is why articulating (and living) the vision is such a critical leadership responsibility. Leaders express a vision and reinforce it with team members by helping them find meaning in their work through its connection to the organization’s broader purpose and acknowledging the impact of their work.
A common sense of purpose unites team members, enhancing their efforts and fostering a positive work environment conducive to collaboration where all employees are working together towards realizing the vision.
When employees share a sense of purpose with their colleagues and have a strong commitment to an organization’s vision, it boosts morale, performance, trust, and overall job satisfaction.
Leaders establish and reinforce employees’ sense of purpose by linking it to their daily work and the broader mission and vision of the organization. Leaders can assist team members in finding purpose in their work by setting expectations that align with the organization’s broader vision and reflect its culture and core values.
Leaders Help Team Members Grow
A survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that one of the primary reasons US workers left their jobs in 2021 was a lack of advancement opportunities. Interestingly, those who have since found employment elsewhere are more likely to report that their new job offers more opportunities for growth.
Employees need to see a clear path to advancement in order to feel motivated in their roles. This involves the ability to develop their skills, acquire new knowledge, and grow professionally.
To maintain high levels of employee motivation and commitment, it’s crucial for organizations to show their investment in their workforce. This can be demonstrated by creating a clear trajectory for employee growth, development, and advancement.
When employees perceive that their organization cares about their success and provides them with opportunities to grow, it can significantly boost their motivation and performance.
Leaders can support their team members’ growth in several ways, including in-person and online training, cross-training, tuition reimbursement, participation in professional organizations, and career pathing.
Leaders Foster a Positive Work Environment
Creating and maintaining a healthy work environment that is positive, inclusive, and collaborative is essential to keeping employees motivated.
Leaders play a key role in maintaining a positive work environment by resolving conflict and fostering psychological safety. They attentively listen to issues and swiftly address them, cultivating a peaceful work environment.
Toxic work environments fueled the Great Resignation. Employees, even top performers, will struggle to stay motivated in toxic work environments. If left unchecked, employees will leave.
Maintaining a positive work environment provides a positive employee experience and the ideal conditions for employees to do their best work. By ensuring the work environment is inclusive, employees have a strong sense of belonging that keeps them motivated and productive.
It also helps to create a work environment that is healthy for everyone and that prioritizes well-being.
In essence, leadership matters now more than ever because leaders help individuals and organizations navigate through complexities, adapt to changes, resolve conflicts, and work towards a shared vision. Highly effective leaders foster a positive work environment where high morale, top performance, and trusting relationships are the norm.
Matt Tenney is an active CEO who aspires to create the best workplace culture in the world. Matt is also the author of Serve To Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom, and The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence. Matt is frequently invited to present keynote speeches at leadership conferences and meetings. His TEDx Talk has been viewed over 1,000,000 times since January, 2020.