The employer-employee relationship – are you leading by example?
Prime the pump
March 28, 2023

The employer-employee relationship – are you leading by example?

“I DON’T FEEL that the ‘top brass’ in my company practice what they preach. My colleagues and I feel that the leaders within my organization exhibit the do as I say and not as I do attitude and that is a turn off.” Those words were said to me recently by a young professional who reached out to me for encouragement and guidance.

In an effort to understand the gravity of the statement, I responded in my usual keen voice, “tell me about it.” She went on to say “We do not see them doing the things passed down to us as written directives. In our opinion, they do not exemplify the organization’s values. We do not feel that they seek to understand and connect with us.”

To show up as authentic leaders, leaders must lead by example. It is critical that they embody the behaviours that they hope to foster in their team. Today, we continue to look at some ethical responsibilities in the employer-employee relationship. We established that “The employer-employee relationship should not be looked at simply in economic terms. It is a significant human relationship of mutual dependency and has great impact on the people involved. A person’s job, like a person’s business, are highly valued possessions that pervasively affect the lives of the employees and their families. With stakeholders everywhere, the relationship is laden with moral responsibilities. Though the pressures of self-interest are very powerful and compelling, both workers and bosses should guide their choices by basic ethical principles including honest, candour, respect and caring.” – The Josephson Institute’s Exemplary Leadership & Business Ethics.

What role does ‘lead by example’ play in the employer- employee relationship? Leading by example is inspiring others to replicate the behaviours you exhibit. It is best demonstrated in the servant-leadership style of leadership. In this style, the leader focuses on the team’s well-being and progress and put the employees’ needs first. The theory promotes leaders serving employees instead of employees serving leaders. Leaders who practice the servant-leadership style believe that when their employees feel fulfilled it is reflected in the quality of work they produce. In organizations that are led by servant-leaders, employees feel valued, respected and appreciated.

What do want from your leaders? I asked the young professional… “For them to come down from their high horses and reason with us. To make us part of the decision making process, especially when the decisions directly impact us. To have dialogue with us – we much prefer them to come and communicate bad news to us directly instead of sending the communication through a junior manager.”

In an article by indeed titled “10 principles of Servant Leadership” it states that “A servant leader should always lead their team by example. As a servant leader, you should be willing to do anything you ask your team to do. When your team members see you are willing to put in the same amount of work and effort they do, it helps motivate them to engage in their work and the organization.”

Empathy happens to be one of the ten principles of servant leadership. Empathy is the ability to understand and be sensitive to people’s ideas, perspective, and styles.

Bob in an article titled “Empathy in the workplace” describe empathy as a key component of functional, positive relationships. The more that leaders and employee practice this skill in the workplace, the more cohesive, diverse and harmonious the company culture can become.

Recently a senior executive asked me if it was unreasonable for her to expect empathy from her employees. The answer is no. Empathy is important at all levels of an organization. As a leader, you can practice empathy by supporting employees’ interest in and out of the workplace. Seek to understand their goals and aspirations and find ways to support them. Encourage healthy communication by practising active listening and exhibit high emotional intelligence. On the other hand, employees could practice empathy towards their leaders by giving them permission to be human – acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and sometimes aren’t as attentive to people’s needs when under tremendous pressure.

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