Here is a TED Talk by Simon Sinek, the third most-watched, on what makes a great leader a great leader. The bottom line is "why" comes first because it motivates and connects to human concerns. "What" and "how," though important, do not move people in the same way. Purpose and passion override mechanics with regard to making things happen.
A few months ago, I attended a conference where a woman leader explained the difference between transactional and transformational leaders. Same idea. The transformational leader sees a need, creates a vision and inspires a group. The transactional leader focuses on management, organization, and supervision. The transformational leader acts as a role model, conjures a sense of positive identity, both collective and personal, encourages ownership of one’s work and inspires commitment. The transactional leader who prefers rewards and punishments, and competition over creation, deflates people.
I was thinking about why this TED Talk is so popular, aside from the fact that Sinek is a great speaker. Do we all aspire to leadership or imagine ourselves as one who could lead? Maybe some of us report to a transactional leader who conveys distrust and takes the wind out of our sails? Evidence suggests that autonomy at work boosts morale and productivity. Dr. Daniel Wheatley in his article, "Autonomy in Paid Work and Employee Subjective Well-Being" expounds.
Dr. Ichiro Kawachi, chair of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health spoke about this topic at a conference a couple of years ago. Respect and support for workers have an impact.
A former professor explained how the “haughty disdain” in his department head seeded demoralization.
Maybe a leader feels threatened, competitive, or even envious of a talented worker. It takes self-confidence to allow others to flourish or even surpass you. We all have strengths and limitations. Surrounding yourself with people who can do a few things better than you and let them do it seems like a sound plan. For the good of all. Isn’t that what presidents do? Controlling, corralling, and diminishing the gifted worker may be a way to feel better, but often backfires.
A boss may want to do the right thing, even have a generous impulse. But inner forces can undermine a conscious desire to be kind. Undigested competitiveness, envy, or control issues can lead to passive-aggressive behaviors—excluding, diminishing, marginalizing. backstabbing, judging and mocking. Toxic environment stuff. There are healthy ways to channel inner drives. Insight-oriented psychotherapy is useful for turning negative tendencies into positive ones. Know yourself.
Sinek says that good leaders are ongoing students of leadership. Their generosity breeds generativity in others. My Illustrious and ever humble colleague likes to say, “Just keep doing good work, and it all works out.”