Are Your Leaders Engaging Enough?

The engagement of many is held in the hands of a few. How can your leaders be engaging individuals themselves, to drive engagement in others?

Are Your Leaders Engaging Enough?

23 Dec 2016 by  Boon Chong Na

Time and again, our data has shown that engaged employees deliver better business performance, are more connected to their companies, and strive to go above and beyond. The Aon Hewitt 2016 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report showed that only 65% of employees across Asia Pacific are engaged.

Yet the engagement of many is held in the hands of a few. While it’s true that engagement has many drivers, Aon Hewitt’s The Engaging Leader study discovered that strong leadership is the consistent differentiator for engagement.

So, what makes an engaging leader?

At Aon Hewitt, we don’t just research engaging leaders; we have one of our own—President and CEO of Aon plc, Greg Case, who was named by Harvard Business Review (HBR) as one of the 2016 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World. In selecting the leaders for this prestigious list, HBR takes into account each chief executive’s entire tenure, and measures financial returns, as well as a company’s environmental, social, and governance rating.

While each chief executive is likely to have his or her own unique leadership style, our research suggests that they have these qualities:

  1. Guiding Beliefs: They have unique belief systems and personality traits.
  2. Critical Experiences: Engaging leaders had early experiences that shaped them.
  3. Displayed Behaviour: They behave in unique ways that positively and exponentially impact the engagement of those around them.

Through the study, we also discovered that engaging leaders:

  • Step up by proactively owning solutions where others cannot or do not.
  • Energise people by keeping them focused on purpose and vision with contagious positivity.
  • Connect and Stabilise by listening, staying calm and unifying others.
  • Serve and Grow by empowering, enabling and developing their people.
  • Stay Grounded through humble, open, candid and authentic communications and behaviour.

Still, what makes engaging leaders different isn’t just that they’re doing these things, but how they’re doing them. As in our research, and in observing Greg Case’s example, engaging leaders are “nearby leaders”—they are accessible to their people, they show genuine concern for their people and they enable their people. MIT bolstered this research by studying leaders’ physical interactions in the workplace and found that natural leaders are “charismatic connectors” who “circulate actively, giving their time democratically to others, engage in brief but energetic conversations and listen at least as much as they talk.”

In his 11 years of leading Aon, Greg Case has overseen major growth initiatives that have enhanced our offerings in the market and solidified Aon’s reputation as a world leader in risk and people solutions. The acquisitions of Hewitt Associates and Benfield Group, as well as our partnership with Manchester United, are just a few examples of major milestones since Greg took office. As an engaging leader of Aon, he is the personification of a leader who motivates engagement in employees, who in turn, drive business performance.

How to develop engaging leaders?

In any organisation, the strength of leadership lies in the stability of its leadership pipeline. Engaging leaders must be identified and nurtured in order to get the best out of them.

  • Measure employee and leadership engagement, to understand whether your organisation has the required level of engagement in its leadership ranks to be successful.
  • Assess and select for engaging leadership, so as to identify engaging leaders you already have and the development needs of those with the potential to become engaging leaders.
  • Coach and develop emerging leaders, so as to build on their critical early experiences.
  • Engage the disengaged leaders, by utilising the engaged leaders to drive engagement in the leadership ranks.

Start a conversation with us

Need help developing engaging leaders in your organisation? Get in touch with us.

Boon Chong Na

Boon is Senior Client Partner, Talent Rewards and Performance, and is responsible for client development in Southeast Asia. He has extensive consulting experience in corporate governance, executive compensation, organisation transformation, post-merger integration, and enterprise performance management.

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Boon Chong Na