I had an interesting, puzzling, and ultimately depressing conversation with the executive director of a failing organization a few years ago. Their problem, as he saw it, was that they were leaking employees. They couldn’t keep workers around for very long, continuity was non-existent, and most people didn’t enjoy coming to work. I said, “Driving to work is like driving up to Dracula’s castle.” He laughed and said, “The only reason we can keep this place staffed is because we have a large funnel next door.” He pointed over his shoulder in the direction of the local college. Lots of willing workers there, at least for a short time.
A Competitive Advantage
It’s too bad they were failing, because they had an important mission in their community to fulfill, but as the organization failed, so did its mission. The conversation was depressing, because I could have helped him if he would have given me the chance. And with today’s labor needs heating up, it’s become even more difficult to obtain and retain employees. You need a competitive advantage that goes beyond the short-term incentive of a paycheck.
Leaders define culture; they don’t just talk about it. Their actions set the standards of what type of behaviors are tolerated and expected. If done right, cultures of liberation emerge. In my work with GiANT Worldwide we describe our mission as “becoming leaders worth following, who build leaders worth following, and lead organizations everyone wants to work for.” We call such leaders “Liberators” who consistently fight for the highest possible good in the lives of those they lead.
Becoming a Liberator
In this series I’ll be helping you become a liberating leader at work. For now, give thought to the work environments you’ve been part of. In some cases you followed the leader because you had to, and in other cases you followed the leader because you truly wanted to. In the latter, employees brought their best, their teams thrived, and the organization more than likely achieved its mission. The good news is that you can get that back, and it’s not as hard as you might think.