Should Leaders Value People Who Work For Them?
In a management class, the students were asked, “What do leaders think about?” Most students answered that leaders primarily think about the organization’s goals and how to achieve them. Some of the smarter ones said that great leaders also focus on their skills and strategies, and care about their customers. But no one really thought about leaders caring for the people who work for them – their employees! When the students were told that leaders also think about their employees, some were indifferent, and the remaining thought that they had in any case covered the important answers to the question.
Are leaders really indifferent to the people who work for them? Is it true that leaders give priority first to themselves, followed by the organization, their customers and finally their employees (in that order)? Is it possible that leaders consider employees merely as the means to achieve their priorities?
Employees are the most valuable asset for any organization. And leaders who understand this take care of their employees as ‘people’ and not ‘workers’. What would you do if you thought something or someone was valuable to you? Wouldn’t you protect, care, nurture and nourish it? Wouldn’t you be sensitive and compassionate?
Good leaders manage employees to get work done but exceptional leaders empower their employees to do the work. It is one thing to manage people and quite the other to genuinely connect with them at an individual level. Connecting with people and building relationships with employees will not be such a challenge if leaders bare their human side.
But most leaders build an aura of superiority around them and in the process alienate themselves from the rest of the workforce. They are accessible only during group meetings, give feedbacks only annually, and communicate only when there is need to instruct or revise orders. Employees fear to give their inputs or suggest a different approach thinking that it might not be appreciated or even be taken otherwise.
Successful leaders care deeply about the people who work for them. They treat employees fairly and with utmost regard, empathy and trust. They also keep channels of communication open for suggestions, opinions and inputs. They invest time to understand the goals of their employees and explain to them the purpose of their work and how it contributes to the organization’s mission. They are also quick to reward and give feedback for achievements.
Outstanding leaders understand that an informal conversation addressing any concern of an employee, a kind word, a pat on the shoulder or even a quick discussion about the family can mean much more than formal evaluations and group meetings.
Leaders who value people promote an organizational culture that encourages growth, improves productivity, and enhances the ability to innovate and respond to challenges.