Posted on 25 Feb 2016
Perhaps companies need televangelists in order to have higher engagement levels. Well, no, organisations don’t need prolific pastors in the same vein as Jim Bakker and Joel Osteen, but rather infectious individuals like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson who can effectively whip people into a frenzy of passion and productivity.
Brian Sommer, founder of Vital Analysis and TechVentive, puts it this way: The best leaders can show up in “white robes, talk to the unwashed masses and paint a compelling picture of the afterlife.” And by “afterlife,” he doesn’t mean heaven-or-hell but instead the intoxicating future of the organisation. Much like Steve Jobs was known as the life force behind the Apple brand and culture, companies that have an energised, enthusiastic leader at their helm will be much more successful at creating an engaged workforce (whether they are unwashed or not may be a function of the corporate culture).
People are often working for leaders who are unable to tell a compelling story about the company’s afterlife.
Brian sees this is one of the biggest problems with engagement – people are often working for leaders who are unable to tell a compelling story about the company’s afterlife. These CEOs just don’t engage and motivate people. They don’t know how to relentlessly communicate and keep people energised about the company’s future. “You can have the best and brightest talent, but without a clear compelling proposition, all things are for naught,” Brian points out.
Of course, not every CEO and company leader is cut out for this glorified role. So much the worse for their organisations, says Brian, since a shortage of these leaders will be problem in the future: “Without a televangelist, you don’t have a prayer of a chance in getting great engagement.”
In Brian’s view, low engagement is a problem of poor leadership, not unmotivated employees. This is especially true in the tech industry where employee ideas and innovations are coming out of the woodwork at a rate with which the development of charismatic leaders cannot keep pace.
Low engagement is a problem of poor leadership, not unmotivated employees.
So, what’s the answer? The evolution of a new kind of leader, says Brian. A leader who knows how to not only look ahead to figure out where the company needs to be, but who also knows how to create an engaging narrative for the workforce to rally around. Without these two components, Brian believes, a company is bound to stagnate and die.
This new breed of leader must also understand how to set tough goals. To be successful, leaders must be able to keep an organisation continually and relentlessly focused on delivering a product on a certain date and at a certain time, regardless of external or internal barriers. Brian bemoans the fact that the lack of urgency at some organisations means that there’s “no reason for anyone to bust their butt and get things done.” Smart leaders know how to create enough dissonance – without crisis – to get people focused on accomplishing their goal, even under sometimes brutal deadlines. Without this sense of urgency, there can be no innovation and employees are apt to languish and become disengaged.
Much like in the world of televangelism, impassioned, engaged leaders that can effectively preach to the masses will result in a group of fervent, devoted followers ready to support the organisation’s gospel and vision for the afterlife. The question is – will there be enough evangelistic leaders to go around? And if not, how can leaders develop into more charismatic evangelists capable of engaging their congregations?
About The Author
President, Vital Analysis
Brian is also the Founder TechVentive, an MBA university professor, and winner of the Software Advice’s 2011 Authority Award - ERP Expert and the 2014 ERP Writers' Award.