Dirty Rotten Scoundrel…or Engaging Leader?

1 Mar

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”.

You may recall this movie co-starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine and directed by Frank Oz-terrific title. Sadly, it is also an all-too-common synopsis of how employees at many workplaces feel about the individuals who hold leadership positions where they work.

In Re-Engage we identify seven themes that differentiate senior leaders who have created highly engaged workplaces from those leaders who can fairly be called “dirty, rotten scoundrels”.  The most engaging leaders:

1.      Use their personal power to engage and are committed to creating a great workplace,

2.      Inspire confidence in their decisions and direction,

3.      Build trust through their honesty and integrity,

4.      Practice open, two-way communication,

5.      Shun the temptations of executive greed and strive to pay fairly,

6.      Genuinely value employees as people, and

7.      Lead with respect, not coercion, control, fear, or intimidation.

To illustrate these themes, here are a few comments from employees who must live under opposite conditions–the oppression of leaders whose actions have led to highly disengaged employees:

“They cut out our benefits when the company shows no signs of slowing; blaming the economy, yet managers still got their bonuses.”

“Leaders are exploiting us to the fullest in order to increase company profits.”

“I feel that the company doesn’t value its employees.  They demand things with no benefit or feedback from the employees.”

“The entire country is in financial stress and yet somehow this company manages to find a way to place the lack of sales on its employees.”

“There is very little trust that the managers will follow through with promised rewards and a general feeling of not being valued.  Being told that we are ‘lucky to have a job’ makes people feel like they are being taken advantage of because they have no other choice.”

The leaders of these employees should heed the words of the great U.S. general and President Dwight Eisenhower, who said: “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” Employees at disengaged workplaces are judging their leaders guilty of assault, and the productivity and engagement of employees suffers as a result.

We admonish every leader to examine the seven themes that differentiate effective leadership as seen through the eyes of employees. You may also want to consider the following questions:

  • As you look through this lens, how do you believe your employees view you?
  • Do they see you as someone who puts self-interest ahead of the greater good of the firm?
  • Are you providing a clear picture of where the organization is going, and helping employees see their role in that picture?
  • Do employees where you work believe they have an opportunity to truly be heard, that their opinions are given due consideration?
  • In short, are you seen as a leader who inspires confidence, commitment and extra effort, or as a “dirty, rotten scoundrel”?

Believe us, your employees know the difference.

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