What Employees Want and Look for in their Organizational Leader’s

Motivational Background

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What Employees Want and Look for in their Organizational Leader’s

“A life isn’t significant except for its impact on other lives.” Jackie Robinson

This article is not written from the perspective of being an expert on this topic, but simply as one who for the past two years has been engaged part-time as both a consultant and leadership coach to a couple of local Christian organizations. Over the years I have managed employees in public sector jobs, became a small business entrepreneur/sole-proprietor, as well as pastoring small Baptist churches, all allowing me to gain some small yet valuable insight into this topic. Additionally, where this article is concerned, I owe a word of thanks to my wife who is currently employed as an Executive Assistant at a local hospital. From their Community Cares Leader Handbook (2006-2014 Healthcare Performance LLC) currently being utilized by their C-Suite leadership team come the following insights to the “Five Critical Things Employees Want from a Leader:” This insightful list into what employees desire from their leaders is applicable whether the leaders are in a for-profit, not-for-profit, marketplace or faith-based organization including the local church. These characteristics, values, attributes should be the norm versus the exception where their organizational leader is concerned. This article stated that:

  1. Employees want a leader who cares about them and values them. The number one reason people leave their jobs is that they feel they are valued. Even more, people do not leave their “team,” they leave their direct supervisor. Taking the time every day to make a human connection with employees [staff members in churches] and to really listen and respond to their needs, counteracts that perception.
  2. Employees want systems that work and the tools and equipment to do the job. A major part of job satisfaction centers on employees being able to perform the duties to do their job. Companies [organizations including churches] often experience equipment [processes, operational] breakdowns that stymie and frustrate employees. In some cases, people have complained among themselves for years about inefficient systems and processes. When you ask people “Do you have the tools and equipment [processes or systems in place] you need to do your job today?” and they say no, you can fix the problem and turn it into a win.
  3. Employees want opportunities for professional development. Professional development does not always have to happen in a formal classroom setting. [While this may be necessary or needed at times, mentoring or reverse mentoring can provide excellent professional developmental opportunities.]
  4. Employees want to be recognized and rewarded for doing a good job. A great way to build morale is privately and in a group, settings are to sing someone’s praises, i.e. [the “Atta boy, or Atta girl” that we all like and need to hear from time to time]. Acknowledging a good job allows [individuals] emotional bank accounts to grow [allowing for those times we may have to take someone aside and address some personal or performance issues that not positive].
  5. Employees do not want to work with low performers [those who do not have a good work ethic or are slackers]. Nothing makes employees as discouraged and resentful as having to co-exist with people who do not pull their own weight. In fact, low performers usually drive high performers right out the door. When a leader [manager, pastor, staff member] is in touch with all employees [those under his/her direct supervision], it does not take long for them to deduce which employees are slacking off or making life difficult for everyone else. Once low performers are identified, a leader [manager, pastor, staff member] has a choice to develop them or move them out. It is not an easy task, but it is absolutely necessary.

[Conversely, it should never be the leader, manager, pastor, staff person who in all actuality is the low performer, slacker, master of delegation because they are too lazy to fulfill tasks that are rightfully theirs to do and in their job description. Unfortunately, on occasion, this does occur and the employee/member working underneath that leader, manager, pastor, staff person exemplifying this behavior is then placed in a precarious position. Where do you go to report this egregious behavior? Many people even in Christian organizations, churches, may feel that because they need a paycheck there is nothing they can do about it and so they choose to do nothing.]

So you are an organizational leader, pastor and since “Any organization is only as strong as its leadership and the people who follow that lead” (Kouzes & Posner, Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge) how would your employees, those you directly supervise, grade/evaluate you as to the above five critical things employees want in their leaders? If you fear your grade or evaluation is less than positive, if there are areas here in your leadership that need a course correction, a paradigm shift, don’t delay. Begin to immediately address these deficiencies. Additionally, Kouzes & Posner note that one of the questions a leader must ask is, “How do I strengthen those I lead?” The answer may surprise you as they state, “A wise leader strengthens people by giving power away.” Leaders place constituents [employees, members] not themselves, at the center. Leaders use their power in service of others, not in service of themselves (2006, p. 90). When we become wise leaders we will lead in such a manner that our employees, members will not view us as deficient in the above five critical things that employees want in their leader.

Gary Strack, the former CEO of a regional health care system in Florida, told us he strongly believed “the purpose of leadership was to create a legacy and not a legend.” He went on to say:

I constantly remind myself that my name is not on the organization. I think all leaders, including myself, need to be reminded of that and that we are just in our positions as stewards of our people and organizations which have entrusted to us (Kouzes & Posner, 2010, The Truth About Leadership, p. 139).

Finally, and from a distinctly Christian perspective, we need to remember “whose” name is “The Name above All Names” that is the head of our organization whether church, para-church or a marketplace Christian company. The question for us as Christian leaders is “Who is Lord of our Leadership” because it directly impacts our leadership style. There is a direct correlation to who is “Lord of our Leadership” and whether we have successfully incorporated into our leadership, pastoral style those attributes, characteristics that employees, church members desire to work under, with, and for. It will be hard as Christian leaders to advance the Kingdom’s work if an unhealthy and unsustainable work environment exists for our employees, much less maintain any real credibility as a leader in the process.

“Resolved: never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if were the last hour of my life.” Jonathan Edwards


References: As they appear in this article

Jackie Robinson quote, cited by John C. Maxwell, 2009, The Right to Lead: Learning Leadership through Character and Courage (Naperville, IL: Simple Truths, LLC), p. 49.

Five Critical Things Employees Want from a Leader, Community Cares Leader Handbook, 2006-2014 Healthcare Performance LLC.

James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner, 2006, Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass), p. 90.

James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner, 2010, The Truth About Leadership (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass), p. 139.

Jonathan Edwards quote, cited by John C. Maxwell, 2009, The Right to Lead: Learning Leadership through Character and Courage (Naperville, IL: Simple Truths, LLC), p. 15.

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