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Why it’s a good idea to “unboss”

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A significant mathematical relationship between leader behaviours and the engagement of staff

The graphic above shows some of the results of a major piece of research SACS undertook in partnership with Deakin University into leadership behaviours.

More than 2600 people answered questions we asked them about the behaviours of the leaders they report to. We also measured their levels of engagement – how energised, committed and happily involved they were in their work.

Engagement measured in this form is one of the best predictors of organisation outcomes – profit, staff turnover, stakeholder satisfaction, just to name a few – ever discovered

We found some useful things:

  1. A very significant mathematical relationship between leader behaviours and the engagement of staff, as shown by the model summary box – the adjusted R Square shows that about a quarter of the engagement of any staff member comes directly from their leader.
  2. We found four key leader behaviours which were most important in driving engagement of staff.
  3. The best and most effective leaders actively encourage – in fact coach – their staff to make their own decisions.
  4. They are optimistic and positive.  Negative, cynical leaders can do everything else right, but they will never be effective.  Leadership evolved so that followers can look forward to greater safety, prosperity and justice.
  5. They support their staff at the human level (“Sure, leave early to attend that important event”) and at the career level (“Let me help you develop your stakeholder management skills.  It will stand you in good stead in the future.)
  6. They create an environment where staff constantly learn.  This must include high levels of delegation.  I have met so many leaders who hold off delegating to staff in order not to burden them.  Delegation is a fantastic learning tool for staff.  It also shows high levels of trust and confidence, which feeds into the other three key behaviour

These results make me wonder why so many people want to be bosses.  What they show is that the most effective leaders are actually facilitators.  They facilitate their staff to make their own decisions, to grow their careers, to improve their skills.  They use optimism and positivity because good facilitators have to show that they believe in the future.

So, now is not a good time to be a boss, but it is a great time to be a facilitator.  The best and most effective organisations are “unbossing”, moving away from a top down style and focussing on empowerment through facilitation.

We took these ten behaviours and created a 360 degree measurement tool which measures the leader behaviours which determine how engaged staff will be.  Learn more about SACS 360 degree feedback tool. If you are interested in some of the other findings from this research project a reference is cited below.

Albrecht, S., Breidahl, E., & Marty, A. (2018). Organizational resources, organizational engagement climate, and employee engagement. Career Development International.

Originally posted: March 27, 2018

Andrew Marty

Managing Director at SACS Consulting

Andrew is a qualified psychologist who has over 25 years of human resource management consulting experience, including extensive senior executive search and selection experience.

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