You need a leadership makeover if you’re just focused on getting things done.
A recent McKinsey study on the Great Resignation arrived at a stunning conclusion: Despite the fact that millions of workers have been leaving their jobs every month for nearly two years, companies still “don’t really have a grasp on why their employees quit.” While employers believe people are resigning to get bigger paychecks, and gain a better work-life balance, the truth is something far simpler. Workers told McKinsey they specifically left because they didn’t feel valued by their organization or by their manager. And, they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work.
My first question after reading the study findings was, “How in the world could any leader or company today not know what people need in order to thrive in their jobs? And my next question, “Why do we always assume more pay will seduce workers away from their jobs when what employees clearly and desperately want is to be made to feel that they matter, that they are respected, appreciated and fundamentally important to their organization’s success?”
My conclusion is that too many workplace managers are so focused on doing, on achieving–on moving the ball down the field–that they rarely take the time to consider how their employees are feeling. And this lack of awareness is repeatedly proving to be their downfall. If they’re not feeling the love, people are especially willing to seek it in a job somewhere else.
OTHER AWARENESS REQUIRES SELF-AWARENESS
Nearly 20 years ago, the 75 members of the Stanford University business school’s advisory council were asked to recommend the single most important capability leaders should develop. And their answer was nearly unanimous: “self-awareness.” As Harvard Business School professor, Bill George expressed in his book True North, many managers are so focused on establishing themselves in the world that they give themselves little time for self-exploration. And by not taking the essential inner journey to learn what kind of impact they intentionally want to have as a leader, they effectively leave it to chance. As a recent guest on my podcast, David Gergen author of the new bestseller, Hearts Touched With Fire: How Great Leaders Are Made made the powerful assertion that leadership starts from within. “While it’s important to learn how the world works,” he told me, “it’s even more important that you learn how you work. You must learn to lead yourself before you can lead others.” The truth is that most of us have had little guidance on how to identify our personal motivations, what kind of legacy we want to leave as a leader–and how to find our own voice. In our universities, business students are required to take technical and traditional management coursework including financial analysis, calculus, statistics and accounting. But what’s inherently missing are the experiences that will help them become more self-aware and secure in themselves. What the Great Resignation is helping to reveal is that the reasons many leaders aren’t very good is because they don’t know who they are.
According to legend, “know thyself” was carved into stone at the entrance to Apollo’s temple in Delphi, Greece well over 2,000 years ago. Clearly influenced by this, Socrates famously said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” As leadership is effectively grounded in self-knowledge, it’s become essential for all managers to take themselves on a journey of self-exploration whether or not their organizations or educators demand it. Here are a few important ways to accomplish this.
ASK YOURSELF IF YOU’RE REALLY MADE TO LEAD OTHER PEOPLE
As we now understand that human beings have greatly evolved in what they need and want in exchange for their work–and that being made to feel valued and esteemed tops their list–managers today must ask themselves, “Do I thrive in seeing and helping other people succeed?” The truth is that not everyone is motivated this way. No one should pursue a leadership career if they don’t have a deep desire to help elevate the growth, success, happiness, and thriving of people other than themselves.
In his essay, “Schopenhauer as Educator,” Nietzche wrote that the way to discover what we were put on this earth for is to go back through our past, list the times we felt most fulfilled, and then see if we can draw a line through them. If our greatest joys prove to come from individual successes and