Before the world (and the business world) changed forever after COVID-19, we thought we had a solid idea of why our employees came to work, why they worked hard, and when they felt engaged.
As long as our employees showed up for work, we assumed they didn’t care about us developing, challenging, and inspiring them.
Many of us managers and owners forget that our employees are real people dealing with a wide variety of issues and challenges. Not to mention, they’re a part of our lives for 40 hours (or more) a week.
Employee retention is tougher than ever right now – and many leave in droves because of poor leaders.
We have to be better. This starts with caring about our team and their wellbeing – and that means measuring performance, engagement, and culture.
At Whirks, we’ve experienced growing pains, turnover, and weeks where our team pulse is low. As the HRO manager, I help small businesses navigate HR issues, recognize risks, and most importantly, discuss how to identify potential leaders.
But leadership is an overused word. What does it mean for business and how do we ensure it in our companies?
With my military background in mind, I’m going to walk you through the definition of good leadership and the three most important factors to consider when choosing good leaders for your business.
What does leadership mean?
If you google leadership, you see two billion results. Everyone has developed their own definition of the word, as well as the traits that a person needs in order to be a great leader.
Experts agree that people in leadership positions need identifiable attributes or competencies to help them succeed. Where they fail is their inability to identify the mindset of the leader as the most fundamental of them all.
The recurring theme of leadership podcasts and articles is focused on helping our employees feel engaged. We can do this by understanding who they are and what they need from us.
We need leaders from all levels to understand that leadership is more than a title or position; it’s a way of life.
Employees need great leaders – but many experience a disengaged manager who doesn’t care about the organization or the employees.
This is the opposite of what leaders do. It does not begin with the employee. Leadership begins with the leader.
I was raised to value hard work and take pride in your name. My upbringing led me into the Army, where they took these values and added teamwork.
My first leader taught me that all my hard work was worthless if the person beside me was failing. If one fails, the team fails.
The Army’s definition of leadership is “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”
I learned that I followed great leaders because they were followable. They were an example of what to do — and I wanted to be like them. Again, leadership begins with the leader.
The Army’s three c’s of leadership are competence, commitment, and character. Which I will break down for you in this article so you can use it to……
Your internal desire to be a great leader is more valuable than your initial actions.
In the Army, we had to decide to be a leader. We also learned that it wasn’t about us – it was about them. We had to make an active decision to be the leader that our team needed.
Our greatest achievement was graded on how well our team performed. We had to make a decision. Leaders must be competent.
In the business world, leaders need to know their company inside out and surround themselves with technical experts in order to learn from them. Competent leaders never stop learning and never stop developing, personally and professionally.
The next “C” that was drilled into us is character. Leaders must be an example for others to follow. That starts with being the one with the highest character—knowing what to do legally, morally, and ethically.
As Douglas MacArthur said, “He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” Leaders make decisions based on what they believe and what they have personally lived through.
The third “C” requires leaders to make a commitment to the team and to the organization. Leaders must be passionate about their jobs, their teams, and the success of both.
Commitment is crucial for the Army, and it’s crucial in business, too.
Military service is not for the faint at heart. It involves months or years away from family, friends, and familiar surroundings. It means uncomfortable and foreign environments (literally, and figuratively), without the creature comforts of home.
It means living with tremendous risk, fear, and uncertainty for long stretches at a time.
Commitment in the military means a resolve to contribute honorable service to the nation. It’s accomplishing a mission despite adversity, obstacles, and challenges.
In the business world, we ask people to be committed to a vision, core values, a business plan, or a project. We make decisions by evaluating risk and reward, and we opt for the path that creates the highest return with the least resistance and cost.
But when we measure commitment level, we survey the wrong demographic in the workplace.
In the army, no one would sign up for the level of obligation if they were not committed to something larger. Our businesses and our employees need it, too.
Do you have that level of commitment? More importantly, do you require it from your team?
Commitment is the foundation that people in a position of authority must evaluate. Commitment is always there – when the company is exceeding its goals, and when times are stressful and your team is struggling to stay inspired.
It’s deeper than engagement – it’s stronger, it’s developed, and it’s lasting.
Use good leadership as the catalyst to great retention.
Now more than ever, we owe our employees great leadership. Your business can’t get one step better every day as long as there are people sitting in the wrong seats.
Leadership is the best tool to possess as a business owner. It attracts and retains wonderful employees who want to support the vision and mission of your company.
This is why it’s important for a leader to commit to the team and focus on embodying competency, commitment, and character.
If you’re interested in diving into some leadership lessons, visit our YouTube channel to watch my series, Boots to Loafers.