The Old Model
Probably one of the most troubling things I observe in my work with leaders is the attitude that promotions are a means to get out of the field, get off the 6th floor (or whatever floor that may be in your company), get out of the shop; you get the idea. On the one hand no one is going to fault someone for wanting to move up and make life a little more tolerable for themselves. However, and this is a big however, more often than not this has translated into an acceptable form of disengagement on the part of leadership.
What is Acceptable Separation?
Getting out of the field, off "that" floor or out of the shop is one thing; avoiding them is completely another matter. What troubles me is that this begins to happen at the first levels of leadership and almost immediately. If it happens there it is certainly happening the higher one goes until you get situations where the presence of a "C" suite leader anywhere other than the executive floor is cause for concern, so rare are those appearances.
This happens in small companies right up to the big ones. I have spoken with leaders fresh off the front line of operations who no longer go out to see how their crews are doing. I have met with divisional and business unit leaders who never venture far from their office unless it is to investigate an issue to tear someone a "new one".
It Has A Cost
In an article by Rohit Kar, a senior researcher from Gallup, he states "When executives' engagement is significantly lower than that of employees in the organizations they lead, CEOs need to act fast -- because engagement (and disengagement) cascades down. Employees look to their organization's executives to set a tone and expectations. They know that company leadership determines whether engagement is important, or even if it matters at all."
We Are Not Preparing Our Leaders
One of the top three causes for this lack of engagement on the part of leaders as cited by Kar is poor preparation: many executives rise through the ranks relatively quickly because of their role performance. But they don't necessarily receive the developmental training and opportunities they need to support their growth as effective leaders, such as programs that enhance their self-awareness or ongoing coaching and mentoring around so-called soft skills.
It Starts At The Top
There is a silver lining. Companies that undertake a disciplined approach to prepare and equip leadership at all levels also see improvements in engagement at the C suite level and how it cascades down to the front line. All executive activity has an effect on the people beside them and below them. Ultimately then, leadership engagement is what drives engagement through the whole company.
Every Leader A Mentor, Every Leader Accountable
To say that all companies suffer from this lack of leadership engagement would be overstating the case. There are some exceptions and as Jim Collins has written, those companies have leadership who from the top down view themselves as mentors to the leadership or team that reports to them. These companies don't leave leadership development to chance and have robust programs in place for leadership development along with development of leadership metrics that hold everyone accountable for their performance and the performance of their team.
If you are a leader in one of those types of companies, then kudos to you and your leadership team. If your company or group is not one of those companies, then I suggest it is time to rethink how your company does leadership. Performance Leadership - Think About It!