Built into the cry for leadership is a call for leaders who protect our interests, who help us retain and build upon what we prize.
It is incumbent upon leaders to look after their peoples’ interests, to protect what they prize and to help them prosper. We need to do this if we hope to earn the right to retain our peoples’ trust, engagement and collaboration.
So what is it that we as people prize? What does the cry “we need leadership” demand be protected? What do we expect our leaders to help us retain?
Consider David Rock’s SCARF model of five ‘factors’ we are motivated to protect against losing. These factors are important not just for productivity in the workplace but also for mental health. Research suggests that some of these factors are more important for people from certain national cultures than for others. There is, however, little point in leaders arguing against any single factor – for leader command a significant advantage in each of these factors in the eyes of those who prize the same. Though no one factor is globally prized more than any of the other four, the fifth factor is particularly important in today’s social media world.
S = Status. For some, their standing amongst peers and in the world is of great importance. For such, their status is an integral part of how they perceive themselves, their title or role or position or hierarchy is a part of how they define themselves. How do we as leaders appreciate and cater for an individual’s need for status when it is in our power to gift that – and how can we address that without pandering to egos?
C = Certainty. For some, the need to see into the future and to know they have control over at least part of their destiny is essential. In our increasingly ambiguous and fast-changing world, this is hard to deliver. As leaders, how do we at the very least have regular conversations at agreed points in time with people whose need for certainty is high – to enable them at the very least to track progress against aspirations?
A = Autonomy. The ability to determine what I do, when I do it, how and with whom I do it is at the heart of this factor. Think of those who chose to work in the gig economy. I’ve known colleagues who have left successful golden teams and sacrificed the other four factors in pursuit of greater autonomy. As leaders, how do we create sufficient autonomy within our groups to ensure those who need it have it AND continue to collaborate in the collective?
R = Relationships. For some and especially Millennials, work must be a place where friendships and fun can be pursued – as well as a place where they work hard. People and relationships have often been the greatest reason to turn down head-hunters and outside opportunities. Conversely, research shows that a major reason why people leave great organisations is because of a poor relationship with their boss. As leaders what are we doing, beyond what we are asking HR to do, to cultivate the environment and set the scene for relationships to flourish?
F = Fairness. More than all of the above, fairness is beginning to resonate big-time in the 21st century. When unfairness is felt – real or imagined – those aggrieved – justified or unjustified –rise and challenge forcefully. Fairness is at the heart of social action and inclusion. As leaders, what are we doing to evaluate how we and our policies ensure fairness in the workplace?
Cora Lynn Heimer Rathbone is a trusted business adviser, a strategy and leadership development expert, a certified executive coach and a Partner at Rathbone Results; Rathbone Results: 020 8798 0175; firstname.lastname@example.org.