• Monday, July 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

If you are a leader, you are contagious!

“Conversely, a leader who constantly complains breeds a culture of negativity and finger-pointing.”

Imagine walking into a room where every eye turns to you, not out of obligation but because your presence commands unspoken respect and admiration. Imagine the opposite: a room where your entrance barely causes a ripple, where disengagement and apathy hang in the air like a heavy fog. As a leader, you have the power to create either of these scenarios.

The truth is that there is a silent force at play, shaping the culture and influencing every aspect of your team’s performance. This force is not a new technology or an innovative process but something far more intrinsic: you, the leader. Yes, if you are a leader, you are contagious.

The core message is clear: leaders are not neutral. Every action, every word, every move you make or don’t make, and every choice sends ripples through the organisation, affecting morale, productivity, and the overall health of your workplace environment. Your enthusiasm, or lack thereof, is as infectious as the latest flu strain.

Think about it: when your boss approaches a challenge with a “can-do” attitude, doesn’t it energise you to tackle your own tasks? Conversely, a leader who constantly complains breeds a culture of negativity and finger-pointing. Your absence communicates as much as your presence. Your disengagement communicates as much as your engagement. You must then ask yourself: What are you spreading around?

Let us consider these scenarios:

Consider the story of a CEO we will call Abena. As a leader, Abena was known for her acute business acumen and strategic brilliance. However, she often worked behind closed doors, rarely interacting with her employees. Her non-action in terms of visibility inadvertently communicated a lack of interest in her team’s daily struggles and successes. The result? was a workforce that felt undervalued and disconnected.

On the other hand, let’s look at Jabulani, a mid-level manager at a tech firm. Jabulani made it a point to engage with his team regularly, celebrating small wins and offering support during challenges. His presence was not just physical but emotional and intellectual. He was engaged, approachable, and authentic. The result? was a motivated, cohesive team that thrived even under pressure.

As a leader, your non-action speaks volumes. When you choose not to address a conflict, you inadvertently signal that such behaviour is acceptable. When you fail to recognise the hard work of your employees, you spread a message of indifference. Non-action can be one of the most damaging forms of communication because it often goes unnoticed until the repercussions are too significant to ignore.

Imagine a scenario where a team is consistently missing deadlines. As a leader, if you do not step in to understand the root cause and offer support, you are implicitly condoning poor performance. Your non-action can lead to a culture of complacency and low standards.

Your absence, whether physical or emotional, also carries weight. A leader who is seldom seen or heard from can create a vacuum of uncertainty and anxiety. Employees may begin to feel directionless, unsure of priorities or the company’s vision.

Contrast this with a leader who makes their presence felt through regular communication, town halls, or simply walking the floor. Their presence alone can inspire confidence, foster transparency, and build a sense of community. When leaders are present, they are able to catch issues early, offer timely praise, and steer the ship with a steady hand.

Disengagement is a silent killer of organisational health. A disengaged leader is one who is there in body but not in spirit. They may attend meetings but fail to contribute meaningfully. They might listen to ideas but show no interest in implementing them. This form of leadership spreads a virus of apathy.

Employees often mirror the engagement level of their leaders. If you are passionate and proactive, your team is likely to follow suit. Conversely, if you are detached and indifferent, don’t be surprised when your team exhibits the same behaviour.

What are you spreading?

As a leader, you must constantly evaluate the kind of energy and attitude you are spreading. Are you fostering a culture of positivity, accountability, and growth? Or are you inadvertently spreading negativity, complacency, and disengagement?

Begin by reflecting on your actions and inactions. Are you visible and approachable? Do you actively engage with your team? Are you communicating your vision and values clearly? Remember, it is not just about being present, but being present with a purpose.

To become a truly contagious leader in the best possible way, commit to being aware and intentional about your influence. Here are some actionable steps:

Be present: Make a conscious effort to be visible and approachable. Walk the floor, engage in spontaneous conversations, and show genuine interest in your team’s work.

Communicate actively: Regularly share updates, celebrate achievements, and address issues promptly. Your communication sets the tone for transparency and trust.

Engage authentically: Show up not just physically but emotionally and intellectually. Be an active participant in meetings, offer constructive feedback, and be open to new ideas.

Recognise and reward: Acknowledge the hard work and successes of your team. Recognition can be a powerful motivator and a positive contagion.

Lead by example: Exhibit the behaviours and attitudes you wish to see in your team. Your actions, more than your words, will inspire and guide your employees.

Leadership is a complex and multifaceted journey. As a leader, your influence is far-reaching and deeply impactful. By embracing your contagious nature with intention and purpose, you can create an environment where positivity, engagement, and high performance are the norms. Remember, leadership is not just a role; it’s a responsibility that extends beyond your immediate tasks to the very heart of your organisation.

About the author:

Dr. Toye Sobande is a strategic leadership expert, lawyer, public speaker, and trainer. He is the CEO of Stephens Leadership Consultancy LLC, a strategy and management consulting firm offering creative insight and solutions to businesses and leaders. Email: contactme@toyesobande.com.

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