Our unique services at the intersection of leadership, communication, and employee engagement help our clients succeed in a fast-paced VUCA world, where ‘leadership as usual’ has proved inadequate for the challenges brought about by the digital transformation.
As the former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower famously quipped, “leadership is the art of getting other people to do something you want done because they want to do it.” A five-star general in the United States Army and supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War 2, Eisenhower was keenly aware that leadership is not about exerting command and control. Rather, the most important task all leaders share is generating active, willing followership, also known as … engagement! In fact, today we know that nothing drives employee engagement – and, conversely, employee disengagement – like the actions of senior leaders and direct supervisors; and what connects, or actually disconnects, leadership and employee engagement is an ever-increasing communication gap that significantly decreases productivity and bottom line outcomes.
Over the course of our evolutionary history, we have accumulated a universal, deeply ingrained conception of good leadership.
Against this background, we will together leverage the unique, game-changing insights of Evolutionary Leadership Theory (ELT). Anchored in the cognitive and behavioural sciences, ELT shows that a) over the course of our evolutionary history we have accumulated an innate and, therefore, universal conception of good leadership; b) there is mismatch between this conception of good leadership and the reality of modern workplaces.; c) this mismatch is a key driver behind the truth researchers have found in the old adage that ‘. The main challenge for every people manager, then, is to close the communication gap by working either with or around the limitations of our evolved psychology. Working against them, ignoring them, playing them down, let alone denying them, means fighting a continuous uphill battle to secure adequate rates of cooperation. Good bye high-performing team. Hello mediocre KPIs.
Let’s dive a little deeper here. Evolution by natural selection ‘invented’ leadership as a tool for group survival (survival and reproduction of the group’s members, to be precise), and for millions of years of human evolution there would have been no boss, no chief, no dominant alpha figure in any human group. Rather, anthropological evidence suggests that control of the group firmly resided with all its members, who granted would-be leaders power in return for group-specific benefits, including the all-important streamlining of collective activities. Thus, leadership and followership evolved in lockstep as a horizontal, mutually beneficial exchange – which in many ways is the very opposite of the vertical, power-based leader-follower relations that continue to be the norm in the corporate world.
Working against the limitations of our evolved psychology, ignoring it, playing it down, let alone denying it, amounts to a blueprint for eventual leadership failure.
Whether agile or ‘reactive’, modern-day employees don’t necessarily follow their supervisors and senior leaders because they are convinced it is the right way to go. Rather, they know that disobedience is likely to be sanctioned by the powers that be. The coercive power corporate leadership is based on thus typically causes compliance, but it does so at the cost of resentment and alienation – and, ultimately, below par performances.
Modern workplaces still excel at producing at best lukewarm levels of engagement – which is simply no basis for building high-performing teams.
Leadership failure is endemic in the corporate world because it is systemic.
What connects – or actually disconnects – leadership and employee engagement is a communication gap.
Leadership only ever maximises outcomes if followership is a rational strategy.
tHConsulting Jörg Müller
+49-89-905 428 56