– Good leadership is very much about attitudes towards other people. About showing that you have confidence in people and trust them to be capable and responsible.
Vision and strategy
Trust in people
Active participation by management
Responsibility and authorities in work teams
Opportunity to influence
Share of profits
These are the words of Richard Berglund, a researcher who has written a thesis about engagement in working life.
Sometimes engaged employees are seen as equivalent to success. The opposite – success without engaged staff – should be difficult to achieve. These assumptions are reflected in general corporate rhetoric, in which it is often stated that, “personnel are our most important resource”. When Richard Berglund at the industry research institute Swerea IVF googled that expression in Swedish he got 34,000 hits. But it is not enough just to say it, he points out; as a manager you must also demonstrate in practice just how important employees are if you want to encourage their interest in work.
– If you want engaged personnel, you have to show through actions that they are important. Look people in the eye, listen to what they have to say and treat everybody with the same respect and value, says Richard Berglund.
In his thesis he has studied factors that contribute to increasing employees’ engagement. One key component is trust. Personnel must feel that their manager trusts in their competence and ability.
– You must dare to allow personnel to take responsibility and show that you believe in them.
But for successful leadership it is at least as important for the manager to have the employees’ trust. This is something that rarely comes automatically.
– You have to be open and show that you are worthy of trust. Long-term involvement and staying power are needed to get there. Campaigns to gain goodwill from personnel are very common, but I do not believe in that method. There are no short cuts in this area, says Richard Berglund.
Credibility is a success factor
Trust is closely related to credibility, which according to the thesis is another success factor. A manager who wishes to be credible must be consistent in decisions taken and set a good example.
– You have to show that you mean what you say and that employees can trust in you. Be open and honest with your ambitions as well as uncertainties. If you are forced to change a decision you must be able to stand by it and argue for the change, says Richard Berglund.
Another significant factor that Richard Berglund points out is the presence of top management at the workplaces. He states that there is often a great distance between company management and the workforce, which can easily lead to a them-and-us feeling.
– This can be changed by managers getting out into the workplaces and meeting the employees. You then show that you believe in what you want to achieve and that work and employees are important. If the workforce does not feel support from the management it is difficult for them to find their own engagement.
Another important ingredient in successful leadership is to treat employees well. Creating a tolerant climate in which people dare to say what they think has a positive effect on engagement.
– All viewpoints from personnel are positive, even criticism. It shows that people are engaged, which is always good. Passivity is the worst villain in this context.