Exeleon Magazine

Leadership Failures Driving the Great Resignation

Great Resignation Dr. Dharius Daniels

Since early 2021, the Great Resignation continues to cause havoc in the employment world as millions of workers are making a mass exodus. More than ever, business leaders and employers need to think smart to ensure their work environments appeal to the post-Covid generation of workers, while also recognizing some of the fundamental leadership failures that drive good employees away.

Leaders globally are grappling to understand what is fueling the Great Resignation. Research suggests that in the aftermath of Covid, people are rethinking their careers, acknowledging their long-standing job dissatisfaction, desiring a better work-life balance, and increasingly preferring the flexibility that remote work allows.

To adapt to this post-Covid generation of employees, employers need to ensure that their work environment appeals to the generation of workers, and this includes recognizing and addressing some of the fundamental leadership failures that are known to drive employees away.

Dr. Dharius Daniels, an emotional intelligence expert, author of Relational Intelligence: The People Skills You Need For The Life Of Purpose You Want and former professor at Princeton University, identifies four crucial leadership failures and provides insights on how to rectify these.

Leadership failure 1: Not recognizing employees as the primary customers

Employees are initially drawn to work for a company because of the company’s reputation. Ultimately however, good employees stick around because of how well a company looks after them. Employees should therefore be treated as the primary customer. This means that the employee should be treated, cared for, managed, and responded to in ways that are consistent with what the company wants for their customers.

Managing employees in this way not only sets a good example, but also increases one of the most important assets of any company – credibility. What credibility brings is trust. As Steven Covey says, every relationship “moves at the speed of trust”. Employees want to work with and work for a company that they can trust. If they can’t trust the company, then there is no credibility.

Leadership failure 2: Not recognizing the difference between leadership and management

‘Leadership’ is a buzzword in corporate culture but, in reality, what we see in most companies is a management culture and not proper leadership.

Management is important and is part of leadership responsibility. Managers have to make people follow, but leaders make people want to follow. Managers bring about compliance but what leaders are able to create is buy-in. When there is buy-in, it increases the likelihood of an employee bringing their best self to work and giving their best effort.

If leaders recognize the difference between management and leadership, it increases their likelihood of recruiting and retaining good employees and of having a team that gives their best effort and will go beyond the regular call of duty.

Leadership failure 3: Not recognizing that finances are no longer the only valued compensation 

A recent development, specifically when considering the work patterns of the millennium generation, is that finances are no longer the only valued compensation.

Current studies reveal that this is the first generation in a long time to not out earn the previous generation. It is not because this generation isn’t capable or competent, but because there are things that they value more than money, such as being part of something that means something, and that values them. They value flexibility more than finances.

An example is the idea of golden handcuffs: paying employees so well that they tolerate toxicity in their working environment because of the financial compensation. It may have worked for previous generations, but it will not work for companies that thrive in the future.

Leadership failure 4: Not recognizing that EQ is the IQ multiplier

Given the reality of the Great Resignation, it is important to realize that what employees don’t want to return to, is the toxicity in the culture they were part of. They are not avoiding work, or wanting to stay at home, but they’ve had a glimpse of what it’s like to work in peace.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) should be seen as a core leadership competency.

The four qualities of EQ

  1. Self- Awareness: How well you are aware of yourself as a leader.
  2. Self-Management: Your ability to manage yourself based on what you know about yourself, as the first person any leader must lead, is oneself.
  3. Social Awareness: Your ability to discern the difference in others and their relationship management.
  4. Relationship Management: The ability to distinguish how different people communicate and are motivated, and your ability to lead and respond accordingly.

Being an emotionally intelligent leader – able to manage yourself and others – is key and critical to recruiting and maintaining good employees in a post-COVID work world.

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