Are leaders better down under?

By Tim Savage

Having just returned from a trip to Sydney, it appears that only one in four employees in the Australian workplaces believe their managers do a good job . The findings are the result of a survey into management by the Centre for Workplace Leadership ,a federally funded research centre at Melbourne University .

It found that whilst there were these obvious concerns over the quality of management capability – over half the nation’s workforce did have a leader in their workplace that they could look up to.

The situation deteriorated the further up the hierarchy you went with only 35 percent of bosses in senior or middle management roles saying that they had someone to model themselves on  – above them .

This gap in leadership capability has significant implications in regard to levels of employee productivity with a potential negative impact of up to 30 percent linked to its absence.

So what should you be spending your leadership development £ or AUD on ?

We can get some valuable clues from the importance of the Empathy Triad described in Daniel Goleman’s December 2013 HBR valuable article on Focused Leaders .

He records that successful leaders have the ability to focus on the needs of others and are easy to recognize. They are the ones who find common ground , whose opinions carry the most weight and with whom other people want to work . They emerge as natural leaders regardless of where they sit in an organization.

The Empathy Triad consists of:

Cognitive Empathy  – the ability to understand other peoples’ perspectives .

Emotional empathy – the ability to feel what someone else feels .

Empathic concern – the ability to sense what another person wants from you .

Cognitive empathy enables leaders to explain themselves in meaningful ways – a skill essential to getting the best performance out of their direct reports .

People often are clueless about realizing the importance of building mutually beneficial relationships to develop effective teamwork and drive superior collective performance . Goleman describes that they are not trying to be jerks but are just unaware of their shortcomings.

I remember with fascination observing a senior colleague who was clueless about understanding the need to make a regular investment in our relationship . In his naïveté , he was convinced that by bringing a bar of chocolate as a gift when he wanted something urgently from me – that this was a sufficient  and appropriate investment in relationship building.

An intelligent and well read professional in his technical field – he had never had any development or helpful feedback to shape his leadership persona for mutual benefit.

Where would your leaders score in the Empathy Triad?

What impact do they have on direct report performance?

This post originally appeared on Tim’s blog here.

Tim Savage has spent more than 30 years working in the people business ; uses humour and a multi-cultural communication capability to create an environment for self reflection and openness to change . He has been working globally and in and around the Middle East since 1988. You can follow him on @TimSavageLondon and on LinkedIn

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