Leader Engagement

Across Asia, alarm bells keep ringing about low levels of employee engagement. Organizations worry that employees may not be giving their best performance, may be likely to leave, or may be negatively affecting the employment brand or the relationship with clients. Employee engagement is a big concern for leaders in many countries throughout the region.

But what about leader engagement?

It’s bad enough when your employees do not feel engaged, for all the reasons noted above and more. When leaders don’t feel a commitment the organization, though, the effects can have a pretty significant ripple effect.

When leaders are just giving their minimal effort, especially during a period of change, the organization misses out on a lot of opportunities.Transformation generally requires some risk-taking, as you try new ideas that haven’t been proven before, but unengaged leaders are often unwilling to take chances because they only see a downside. They aren’t too concerned with the success of the company, so they don’t recognize the potential benefits, but they DO see that they might lose what they have if they make a wrong choice. The easiest solution is to just keep doing whatever has worked before, but in a period of change, what has worked before often does not work in the future. That inability to adapt to changes will hurt your organization.

Unengaged leaders also seem to care little for the workforce. They may fire people simply as a fast way to reduce expenses, rather than taking the time to actually create a right-sized team. They may hire people just to fill a space, rather than making the effort to find somebody who is right for now but who can also grow with the organization. They are unlikely to review and change job descriptions, even as the nature of the work changes.

Internal networks break down when leaders are not engaged. The flow of information slows when a member of a network sits passively by rather than actively helping to get information to where it is needed. New employees often need help identifying and building key relationships in the organization, but the unengaged leader typically leaves it up to them to do rather than helping with introductions.

Why do leaders fail to remain engaged? Some may be close to retirement, and are just coasting along until it’s time to stop. Others may be in an interim role, especially during a time of change, and see little benefit to putting in their full effort since they won’t ultimately be in the role anyway. There are always those who have been promoted beyond their abilities, who recognize that fact and choose to sit back and wait for the more competent people to step up. You may find some who are very resistant to change, and so sit back and let the company change around them rather than taking actions themselves.

There is, of course, another effect of lack of leader engagement: a lack of employee engagement. Employees look to their leaders for examples to follow, and if a boss isn’t engaged, there’s a good chance their employees won’t be, either.

Employee engagement is a big concern in Asia for a very good reason. Before you start trying to fix that issue, though, take a look at yourself, your peers, and even the people above you. Fix leader engagement problems before worrying about employees.