Effective Leaders Focus on Follower Engagement

The posts on this blog have been primarily about effective behaviors of good leadership. But leaders do not exist in a vacuum, and it’s important to remember that much of the work in a high-achieving organization is accomplished by the “followers.” The readings on this site focus on things leaders do to keep those followers engaged and motivated. Let’s take a moment to look at the big picture of follower engagement. I know that sounds like a buzzword, but you can call it whatever you like; keeping people happy, firing people up, making people feel loved, keeping them on your side, maintaining loyalty, whatever.

Much of what I write and teach about servant leadership comes, frankly, from a moral, “do good”, outlook. This may sound cheesy, but I’m a cheesy guy; servant leadership from all leaders and teachers and coaches and managers and parents, everywhere, would make the world a much better place for everyone. But there is a utilitarian way of looking at this also. Keeping people engaged insures a much greater likelihood that the goals of the organization will be attained.

Everybody knows Gallup. They’ve been pollsters for as long as most people remember. In many ways, they put polling on the map. But one area that they’ve specialized in quite a bit is employee engagement. They’ve been studying this for over 30 years. Some of their major recent findings include the following:

29% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs.

54% are not engaged.

17% are actively disengaged.

In world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is about 10 to 1.

In average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is about 2 to 1.

When comparing engagement in the top fourth of companies against the bottom fourth:

Absenteeism is 37% lower.

Safety incidents are 49% lower.

Quality defects are 60% lower.

Productivity is 18% higher.

Profitability is 16% higher.

Most of the folks I talk to and work with buy in to the idea that servant leadership improves lives and makes the world a better place. But even the most touchy-feely among us, myself included, need more. We lead and work in organizations to accomplish things. And we ought to have very high standards of excellence and achievement. We are so fortunate that providing effective servant leadership not only builds people and makes the world better place but enables us to get more things done, better.

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