I remember exactly where I was when this statistic made its way to my LinkedIn feed:

About 50% of employees leave their jobs to get away from their managers – Gallup report

They don’t leave for more money, flexible work arrangements or more responsibility. They leave because they have awful bosses.

It was April of 2015. I was sitting in my office, at the time leading a digital marketing division for a 40-year-old media company with 10 of my worker bees just on the other side of my door. I kept reading, needing to make sure I was not that “boss.” Gallup said employees crave these top three things most…

Reliable and meaningful communication.

Check, as a chatty-Cathy, communication had always been my strong suit.

Informal performance reviews and regular feedback sessions.

Check… I had regular one-on-ones with each member of my team weekly.

Focus on employees’ strength development.

Check… I had recently instituted monthly career development days (different than one-on-ones) to understand how I could help my team develop professionally.

Phew. I was safe. No one would quit “me.”

But I couldn’t stop there. I became passionate about devouring every tidbit I could about how to attract, nourish and retain top employees. And, as I did, one word started to pop up over and over again, “empower,” or the notion of equipping your team with the skill sets, experiences and perspectives needed for them to have heightened levels of responsibility and authority.

Uh oh.

I had found my leadership kryptonite. If the seesaw’s two seats were “Micro-Manage” and “Empower,” unfortunately, I was tipping more towards “Micro-Manage.” I had work to do.

The Impact of Poor Leadership

As leaders, we need to constantly be asking ourselves how we can be doing better, how we can empower our employees to make impact within the organization and how we can stretch and challenge our own ways of thinking. After all, the reality is that our superstar employees are always a few moments in time away from leaving. In fact, the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career, with many employees spending five years or less in every job. And though some are in search of better pay and increased responsibility, a higher percentage are in search of strong leadership.

The effects of poor leadership have been well-documented as of late. Companies with ineffective leaders tend to experience:

  • Great stagnation as innovation and out-of-the-box thinking are not widely endorsed
  • Business environments rife with broken processes, with bosses placing an inordinate amount of pressure on employees to perform heroic efforts daily
  • An “it’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality, with no one questioning and excited to consider a better way
  • Innovation being fought every step along the way instead of being embraced and encouraged
  • Technology that doesn’t actually address user needs because no one approached the implementation with a user-first perspective
  • High degrees of organizational waste, with bosses focused on staying the course instead of continuous improvement

… the list goes on.

What’s more, organizations without great leaders will fail to ever reach operational excellence, or uniquely understand the powerful way people, processes and technologies fuse together to move an organization toward its desired future state. They approach business decisions in a haphazard, myopic manner, not running every decision against that operational excellence model.

Becoming an Excellent Leader

With the implications of poor leadership steep, the onus is on businesses to develop strong leaders. It’s also on each of us as individuals to continually strive towards being better.

Related Reading: The Misconceptions About How Employees Really Become Indispensable

I feel fortunate to say that I have met some pretty amazing leaders along my journey—individuals who have shaped my own principles and demonstrated how strong leadership and healthy companies go hand-in-hand. There are so many tenets of excellent leadership, but here are a few non-negotiables if you want your company to inch closer to operational excellence:

  • Everything is Fixable: In business, there is no process or system problem that is insurmountable to overcome. Effective leaders refute the notions of “we can’t” and “that won’t work” in favor of the belief that everything be improved with the right mindset and approach.
  • Change is Imperative: Strong leaders are visionary and futuristic, eager for strategic change. Though they appreciate how past trends and data impact future growth strategies, they are much more focused on the notion of “what could be” versus rooted in “what is.”
  • Hone the Art of Communication: All too often, business siloes, contention and distrust arise because of miscommunication or lack of communication. Excellent leaders leverage strong communications skills to expedite conflict resolution and problem solving, understanding that innovation comes to a screeching halt when communication challenges arise.
  • It’s Not About Being Right: With a healthy degree of humility and conviction, excellent leaders are more focused on arriving at the right solution to a problem, versus being right. In fact, they delight in someone else coming up with the solution because of the learning moment it provides.

In short, excellent leaders are committed to continuous improvement, the development of one’s self and others, the practice of introspection and the intentional desire to better understand others. They are also willing to go on a never-ending journey, understanding there is not a final destination but rather infinite learning, evolution and growth ahead.

With excellent leaders on board, our organizations can do extraordinary things. We can see employee retention, customer loyalty and competitive differentiation skyrocket. We can realize financial gains from tackling inefficient, redundant and broken processes and systems. And we can start to subscribe to a mindset of operational excellence.

So… how can you become an even better leader?

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