A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way – John Maxwell
Leaders lead by example, so they say. It is common knowledge that great leaders always set good standards to other employees, not only in their own department but also in other departments. In an organization, issues usually arise from typical problems that revolve around engagement and implementation. Generally, the cause of every problem is lack of self-awareness, whether within the leaders or among the staff themselves. In order to increase engagement and performance levels of the staff, consistent and effective advocates must be projected by the leaders.
According to Maxwell (1998), everything rises and falls on leadership. As a leader in my own department, I feel it is unfair for a leader to be blamed in a situation that occurs. This is because when it looks like an issue is happening, the leader usually does not know if something is wrong at first. However, this should not deter a leader from taking full responsibility.
Employees may not be aware that the tasks performed affect the work of colleagues in other departments. They are also not able to see the big picture of how an organization operates as a whole to achieve its goals and objectives. As a result, a work culture is formed in silos. For example, if we are working in the sales department, why do we need to know about what is happening in the Human Resources or Finance departments? It has nothing to do with us, has it? When selfishness is allowed, it will lead to indifferences. One way to overcome such condition is to hold meetings involving all departments once or twice a month. This is a great way to share about what is happening in their respective departments, including the successes and challenges they are facing. Leaders can take this opportunity to come up with ideas on how these departments can work together to solve a problem. This way, they can really make the employees’ perspectives broader in giving contributions and ideas.
Moreover, great leaders not only take good care of their people, but they are also taken care of by their subordinates. By communicating, praising, and creating security, the whole team will be motivated and cared for by the support. Smart employees also need to be told whether what they are doing is in line with the direction of the company. It is impossible for an employee to know if the steps he or she is taking are correct or the other way round if there is no leader navigating the ark. Steve Jobs once said that he hired smart staff so they could tell him what to do. However, this does not mean that he was just a shadow at Apple and letting others do the work.
Additionally, effective leaders always engage themselves with the team. They are always there to provide the necessary support. It is important for a leader to be easily contacted by his staff. They need to be proactive in identifying what the staff need to do to perform their duties better. In truth, no one will advocate for the team like a leader will, and the team needs to know that.
Creating a team culture of advocacy will take frequent clear communication that, as the leader, the whole team is the main concern. During meetings to discuss problems, leaders should show firmness and courage to express the opinions of others who do not dare to speak out. There may be some of them who are less comfortable talking about the difficulties they are experiencing and why they arise, but this is the only way to steer the team to reach a solution.
Leaders should be aware of the problems and welfare of the employees, so that they do not overlook the staff who have worked hard to complete the assigned tasks. In fact, employees will feel valued and important in the company. One way to handle it is by showing appreciation for the contributions of the staff with words such as, “Good work, I really appreciate it.” That is enough to make the employees feel valued.
A leader must show that he/she cares in various ways. The easiest is to give sincere compliments to staff or colleagues on a daily basis. Deep down, everyone wants to do a good job and be recognized for their hard work. When the leader publicly praises his/her people in front of senior leaders, they see that the leader is on record affirming them and their work.
Great leaders love to share their influence to empower and help others. Giving public praise in front of people is a great way to advocate for the leader’s people. Leaders must get used to making it, and it must be sincere and specific. Everyone may be surprised at the resulting difference.
Employee advocacy builds trust and assigning extended projects is absolutely a great way to build trust with the team. Undoubtedly, everyone wants, and needs an advocate as their leader. Therefore, be the advocate the team needs. Advocacy is not always easy, but it can be simple.
Juhaimy binti Ishak
Head of Purchasing
KPJ Selangor Specialist Hospital
Maxwell, J. (1998). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Thomas Nelson Publishing