How many leaders does it take to change a light bulb?

How many leaders does it take to change a light bulb in your workplace? Chances are, they’ll delegate it.

But you can’t delegate leadership. In fact, especially in 2012, you shouldn’t be running a business where leaders deflect responsibility.

It’s impossible to plan for 2012 – there’s game changing carbon legislation in July, dangerous surf conditions for our manufacturing and retail sectors and the wild rodeo ride of mining. And yet, everything hinges of China and Europe behaving well.

Wherever you are in Australia’s two-speed economy, your leaders need to be ready to engage employees to improve productivity and deliver exceptional customer service in the face of disappointing business results, or ready to reward and retain employees in strong performing industries. The Australian Financial Review (6 January 2012) reported recently that leadership is moving from the old concept of command and control to more intelligent leadership. Leaders need to learn and exhibit skills that include:

  • Conflict in the workplace
  • Cross-cultural communication
  • Presentation and plain language communication
  • Managing through change and uncertainty
  • Working with a global, dispersed workforce
  • Communicating with employees in a digital world

From our experience in employee engagement consulting and advice over the years, we sense that more than half of those in middle management and senior leadership positions are exceptional business managers, and have been promoted for those skills – rather than the inspirational and important employee engagement and internal communication skills required at that level to engage employees to be advocates, strive for performance and retain the best performers. So more than half your leaders are not fulfilling the basic requirements of their role – and you, and they, may not even know it.

All it takes is three steps to turn this around:

  1. Benchmark what your people think about their leaders’ communication competency; how well they articulate and contextualise company goals and strategy; how they give and receive feedback that changes business outcomes
  2. Determine the gaps between your leaders’ competency and ideal leadership skills
  3. Invest in leadership communication skills training