In a nutshell . . .
Explaining and understanding the nature of good leadership is probably easier than practising it. Good leadership requires deep human qualities, beyond conventional notions of authority.
Successful leaders are an enabling force, helping people and organisations to perform and develop. This requires the leader to be able to understand and meet the needs of the people as well as the aims and objectives of the organisation.
More importantly, good leadership requires attitudes and behaviours which inspire, motivate and encourage people to become the best that they can be.
Enabling and supporting others is fundamental to the leadership role. Ineffective leaders tend to invert this principle, believing, and even insisting, that the leader must be supported by ‘their’ people. Effective leaders strive to enable, encourage and support people in the organisation, bringing them together in common purpose and achieving shared objectives within a culture of innovation and improvement.
Harnessing the knowledge and creativity of everyone
There are many reasons why knowledge, insights and opinions from every level of the organisation should be heard by senior management teams and in boardrooms. Tackling the complex business challenges of the 21st Century can’t be done by senior teams alone: they need to harness the creativity and insights of the entire workforce. Leaders need to empower others to take the initiative, coaching and supporting them towards successful outcomes. They must become the champions of employee empowerment, participation and voice if they believe in the importance of using and developing the full potential of workforce knowledge, creativity and ideas.
Employee voice is central to this alignment. It takes many forms, combining direct participation by individuals and teams in day-to-day decision-making, and representative participation. The challenge is to ensure a two-way channel of communication that connects them both.
Representative participation (through, for example, works councils and management-union partnership forums) can lead to fresh insights and better decision-making. They bring diversity into the decision-making process and challenge complacency through the injection of different perspectives into discussions.
In the past, many representative forums were focused exclusively on industrial relations issues, or became bogged down in trivial discussion about the quality of the tea and toilets. While they provide a non-confrontational way of addressing often contentious issues, such forums neglect important opportunities for win-win innovation. A new wave of employee representation is emerging, driving positive change in the workplace by bringing together the tacit knowledge of employees with the strategic perspectives of senior management. These experiences show that representative forums can become the drivers and guardians of workplace innovation, firmly focused on issues and opportunities associated with each of the other Elements.
Research indicates that employee forums on their own may have little direct impact on performance or quality of working life, but they can stimulate and support the practices that do so. Above all, employee voice always requires leadership commitment to openness, transparency and two-way communication.
Here are some of the leadership challenges faced by organisations and their employees. What does leadership and employee voice look like in your organisation? (1 = No Problem; 10 = Severe Problem):[progressally_quiz]
Complete all objectives in this section: