Being an effective leader means different things to different people 

The reality is, whether leaders are aware of it or not, some ideas and styles of leadership can lead to undesirable behaviour and unwanted outcomes. A blinkered drive towards meeting organisational outcomes for success at all costs, often ignores the fundamental importance of sustaining a happy and engaged workforce who genuinely want to come to work every day. 

The behaviour of everyone within an organisation directly reflects the quality and ethos of its leadership which in turn effects both an organisation’s reputation and long-term success.  

Does your leadership team make explicit its expectations around its own behaviour and the wider organisation? 

I’m not talking about that elusive list of values and behaviours positioned around the office walls, I’m focusing on the real habitual behaviours seen on a daily basis, the behaviours that are embedded unconsciously within organisational culture that directly shape and impact all aspects of performance management.  

Some famous ‘fails’ show making values explicit does not guarantee desirable behaviour.  

It’s fair to say that some companies such as Enron had wonderful values but some appalling behaviour, lacking the key operating conditions to support behaviours consistent with their values. 

Leadership that focuses on outcomes and ignores the conditions necessary for desirable behaviour leaves the reputation and fate of the organisation to chance. The culture, reputation and future of any organisation is inevitably shaped by what people decide for themselves to be expedient rather than what the leadership might have expected or desired. 

In an environment where people are expected to do more with less, poor behaviour – particularly in organisations that focus only on performance outcomes, is almost guaranteed. 

When performance does not meet expectations, leaders’ attitudes to behaviour influence how this issue is addressed. If behaviour is not seen as being influenced by leadership then unwanted behaviour is viewed as ‘belonging’ to the person who demonstrates it.  

Such ‘employee’ behaviour is commonly addressed through training, personal development, coaching or not at all without necessarily looking at the bigger picture and the causes of the problem. 

These approaches may address the symptoms of performance issues, but often leave the underlying causes unresolved. Producing no return on investment for these forms of interventions. 

Where leaders recognise the influence of leadership and operating conditions on behaviour, the issue is viewed differently.  

This recognition focuses on removing the causes and is a move towards a genuine investment in the future of the organisation and its culture. Behaviour is recognised as a symptom of the influences of leadership expectations, operating conditions and the individual. All of these must be explored to establish the true cause and to find a solution. 

The outcomes and behaviour-focused leadership would seek to make work situations less stressful or identify what is causing their people to disengage and take action towards removing and reducing these environmental influences. 

With this perspective If we look at stress , disengagement, relationship or performance issues, outcome-focused leadership will respond with programmes designed to facilitate a collective and more resilient culture in which habits, emotions and behavioural issues are addressed as a whole organisation rather than targeting a chosen few who are struggling or under-performing. 

Achieving desirable outcomes with acceptable behaviours will always depend on how much leadership accepts and manages its influence on individuals. 

Leadership cannot afford to ignore poor attitudes and behaviours in themselves and others and acknowledge the potential and necessity that a more resilient workplace culture is both possible and likely.  

In summary, three sets of influences are key to leadership: 

  1. Explicit expectations for outcomes and behaviour in themselves and their people. 
  2. Creating the operating conditions that support these expectations. 
  3. Enabling people to be able to meet these expectations in these conditions. 
Categories: Leadership