Soon after a high performer is put into a position of being responsible for other people, the reality sets in that it’s not easy. It’s hard because no longer do you get to think about yourself all the time – you are required to think about others and what’s in their best interest before your own
Leadership is struggling in organizations – and that might be an understatement. The disengagement rate of employees is at an all-time high. The current failure rate for a new leader in an organization is 60%, and 71% of organizations don’t feel their leaders can lead them into the future.
Taking these facts into consideration, along with all the time I have spent studying leaders, I believe the best leaders have never been better. I don’t know if there has ever been in a time in history with more self-aware, hungry and motivated leaders who believe it’s their purpose to make a difference in the lives of other people – what we call 'welder leaders.'
What this has caused is a growing divide between leaders and non-leaders, not the other way around. A larger number of people come into work every day thinking about what their people owe them versus what they can give their people. The reason for this is simple: If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Soon after a high performer is put into a position of being responsible for other people, the reality sets in that it’s not easy. It’s hard because no longer do you get to think about yourself all the time – you are required to think about others and what’s in their best interest before your own. Here are a few reasons why leadership is harder than ever before.
People are no longer satisfied or willing to put up with average to below average leadership. Thanks to websites like Glassdoor, social media posts and 'best places to work' lists, people know there are great companies and great leadership in the workplace.
There are two caveats here. First, people often feel they are stuck in jobs with poor leadership because of what they are being paid. They have built their lives around the salary they make, and taking the risk to change or explore isn’t something worth changing. The second caveat is that average performers don’t mind sticking around for poor leadership.
I hate the word 'millennial.' If I have to hear one more time how different they are, I'm going to lose it. If there's any generation that might be different by a large degree, it’s gen z, which is currently entering the workforce. Either way, these two generations (myself included) do desire things like praise, experiences, mentorship and the feeling of being invested in slightly more than previous generations. (These factors have always been important, they're just slightly more important today.) So figuring out the right balance can be challenging.
Growth, growth, growth
I hear the word 'growth' over and over again from every single leader and company we work with. Why? Because whatever the current growth rate, it could always be better, and our investors, owners and highly driven people simply want more.
This makes leaders feel like they are being pulled in in two widely different directions. On one hand, there’s the expectation of immediate results and the mindset of profit over people. On the other hand, there’s the long game, where their primary focus is on the people they lead.
If this is a struggle for you, I loved the idea Marcel Schwantes shared on the “Follow My Lead" podcast about servant leadership: “There is nothing soft about serving and impacting others at work, because when you do you get results.”
Add all this up and it’s simply true. Being a leader in today’s work environment is harder than ever before, but that’s the best part. With the right mindset, behaviors and long-term view on your career, you can become the leader people want to follow. When this begins to happen, your career will have purpose and meaning you have never ever felt before.
John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a full-service organizational health company whose mission is to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is a speaker, host of the “Follow My Lead” podcast, and author of F.M.L.: Standing Out & Being a Leader and the upcoming book The Welder Leader. For more, visit learnloft.com.