Workers quit leaders, not jobs. When workers voluntarily quit, it creates a tremendous replacement burden of more than 12 percent of pre-tax income for the average company. Yet some organizations report average voluntary turnover of less than half of industry peers. What makes their employees stay? Authentic leadership.
Authentic leaders reduce turnover by building trust and creating a culture where people want to work. They motivate and engage employees by igniting passions while aligning personal motivations to corporate goals. The result is winning employee buy-in, which is proven by research to translate into higher profits and more valuable enterprises. This is increasingly true with younger workers.
While Gen X employees are 17 times more “willing to stay” with a company when they have a great culture, millennials are 25 times more likely to do so, according to a Great Place to Work® survey. And in my experience, a great culture is the result of great leadership. According to compiled research from eMentorConnect, employees with great leaders are also three to four times more productive than their peers. This increase in productivity and retention translates into significant benefits for employers. The more productive employees are, the more profitable the company is and the higher its financial returns.
Retention matters, and great leaders have tremendous impact. Leaders who build a high-trust, high-performance culture, and also take time to connect each employee’s work to a larger mission, are more effective at retaining the best talent. The key to this connection between work and trusted leadership comes down to one thing that all workers crave: authenticity.
There are five basic tenets of authentic leaders:
1. Build Trust and Collaboration.
Companies that retain talent have one thing in common: trust. Authentic leaders create this trust by sharing information willingly, making fair and equitable decisions, over-communicating, and encouraging others to be themselves. They also look for win-win opportunities that encourage collaboration and inspired action.
Inspired action fosters connection by motivating employees to take action because it makes sense to them, not because they were required or asked to take it. Authentic leaders galvanize this kind of action by asking for feedback and encouraging employees to generate ideas for solutions. Authentic leaders don’t say, “Let’s go from point A to point B.” They ask, “What do you think would be the solution?”
2. Communicate Directly.
Inauthentic leaders communicate in an indirect, passive (or passive-aggressive) manner, creating huge communication challenges. Authentic leaders create Conscious Conflict®, bringing into the light whatever conflict the organization is experiencing.
Most people talk around the issues, focusing on the symptoms but not the “why”. Authentic leaders focus on the why (e.g., “The organization isn’t rowing in the same direction”) and the impact (e.g., “If we keep doing this, we won’t achieve our goals”). This approach enables the team to start to see the problem, talk about it in honest ways and fix it.
3. Remain Calm and Steady Under Pressure.
Authentic leaders lead in the way others want to be led. Employees want to follow someone who stays calm both in the day-to-day and in moments of pressure. When leaders are calm, others can feel secure in their decisions and trust their judgment.
4. Listen Actively.
Authentic leaders listen to understand what is really being said. They get to know their team and their clients, and they listen to their needs. They find out their motivations, and they help get them what they want.
5. Lead With Positive Intent.
Authentic leaders assume positive intent, that the other person meant well or was trying to do the right thing even during moments of upheaval or when mistakes have been made. This assumption enables them to acknowledge that there are shades of gray – no one person or action is completely right or wrong. By believing in the positive, authentic leaders empower employees to acknowledge errors and make corrections.
Leveraging the Power of Authentic Leadership
Companies that want to leverage the impact of authentic leadership must identify and empower the authentic leaders who already exist within their organization. These employees naturally operate under the five basic tenets of authentic leadership, and they are already building a performance culture from wherever they are. Companies simply have to find them and then teach them how to leverage their current skills to lead the organization. That’s the key to retaining talent through authentic leadership.