5 Fundamental Shifts needed in Leadership Right now

The world of work has changed a lot over the past decade and even just in the last few years.

The great talent crisis is getting harder and harder to navigate. Employee turnover has been trending up with an 88% increase since 2010 according to the 2019 Retention Report: Trends, Reasons and a Call to Action by Work Institute. That’s a huge increase in a decade!

Particularly when the findings of the report show that 3 out of 4 employees who quit could have been retained, and voluntary turnover costs exceed $600 Billion in the US alone.

In a letter to employers, Danny Nelms, President of Work Institute gives a strong call to action:

“Here’s the deal, Employer: There are plenty of people to do all the work that needs to be done; they’re just working somewhere else. They could be working with you. The secret to attracting and keeping them is right in front of you. You need only to listen, understand, and act on what they are willing to tell you. Companies CAN and MUST become better employers to retain and engage employees.”

Translation: We need a fundamental shift in leadership paradigm.

The current way of leading businesses has created a disengaged workforce.

Only 21% of North American employees are very engaged, have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity, and 15% lower profitability according to Achiever’s 2019 Complacency Report.

Employers who ignore this complacency are at risk of losing customers, marketshare, high-performing employees, profit, and lack a team actively working toward the company’s vision. According to a Forbes article, that complacency translates into real dollars to the tune of 34% of a disengaged employee’s annual salary, or $3,400 for every $10,000 they make.

There’s more data than there is room for in this post proving that the current leadership paradigm isn’t working. In fact, it is very costly. It’s clear the old ways of doing business are no longer effective. In order for businesses to thrive in the future, they need to shift how they are leading, starting now.

5 Fundamental Shifts in Leadership needed right now

1. Shifting From Command & Control to Ownership & Autonomy

The old paradigm (the top down approach) where the leader at the top dictates what needs to be done and how while controlling every aspect creates a stifling environment and leads to missed opportunities of innovation and creative problem solving. The number one category for voluntary turnover is lack of career development and growth opportunities as stated in the article above.

On the other hand, where the leadership philosophy encourages employee ownership and autonomy, employees are empowered to be creative to improve their role or processes. This leads to greater satisfaction and engagement of talent while helping the business uplevel. Improvement requires a growth mindset where being told what to do and how to do it trains a fixed mindset.

2. Shifting From Profit & Self-Interest to Purpose & Service

The dated leadership paradigm of "profit over people," self-interest, and shareholder happiness has created a backlash we can feel across the nation. Companies who treat employees like commodities, who use them up and throw them away, are greatly contributing to the current climate of stress, overwhelm, disengagement, high turnover and toxic work cultures.

However, leaders who inspire others to be part of the purpose of the company’s mission while tapping into their personal purpose reap the benefits of emotional commitment that builds long-term sustainability.

Showing employees how their work adds value and creates impact is a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated. Leaders who adopt a servant leadership philosophy are more likely to build loyalty among their teams, which is vital currency in business.

3. Shifting From Transactional Leadership to Transformational Leadership

Transactional leadership cares only about delivering the results. Often, these leaders don't care about what's going on behind the scenes, in people's personal lives, or if their teams are working 70 hours a week to deliver said results. It's a "revenue and delivery over anything else" style of leadership. It breeds the attitude of just-get-the-job-done-on-time-no-matter-what. It produces absent managers who only care about the bottom line and not about the people delivering it, passive management who maintain the status quo, micro-managers who invoke anxiety, frustration and distrust, and/or managers who are overly critical to the point of belittling or bullying people, usually in a public way.

It’s easy to see why employees exposed to this kind of leadership become disengaged and often leave as soon as they can find a way out.

Transformational leadership focuses on employee motivation and engagement while connecting sense of self with organizational values. Emphasizing leading by example, this approach invests in the individual strengths and weaknesses of employees which fosters commitment to excellence. Transformational leaders are willing to take action if it’s for the greater good of the whole including removing toxic employees from the company, regardless of their role or position.

4. Shifting From Secrecy to Transparency.

Witholding information as a power play prevents employees from being able to do their best work. Information about the company’s performance is withheld and many leaders adopt a “no news is good news” approach to employee feedback on performance. In our modern times of information overload and instant gratification, employees need more engaged leaders who are able to effectively communicate regularly.

Transparency allows everyone to be on the same page going in the same direction without the wasted energy of guessing or being off track.

5. Shifting From Criticism to Compassionate Directness, Celebration & Recognition

You don’t need to look very far to hear stories of being criticized at work in ways that were intended to tear down and hurt. Nothing creates disengagement quicker than being made to feel small or belittled.

When managers complain about others behind their back, name call (or worse), other employees become afraid of what is said behind their back. This creates a culture of blame, shame, distrust, gossip and backbiting.

A lot of well meaning leaders avoid direct feedback with their teams because they are afraid of hurting their feelings.

It may be counter-intuitive, but giving direct feedback in a compassionate manner is actually one of the biggest gifts you can give your team members.

This includes recognition of a job well done, acknowledging the essence of who they are, and giving support to help them grow and improve. Employees are more engaged when they feel comfortable showing their true emotions at work. This requires an environment that is high in psychological and emotional safety.


Psychological safety is the belief you won’t be punished for making mistakes, and emotional safety is feeling like you can let your guard down and be yourself. Establishing a psychologically and emotionally safe work environment should be a top priority for business leaders who see to retain high performers.

We can’t keep going in the direction that we are heading. We need leaders to uplevel their skillset and get up to speed to what these modern times are calling for. Leaders need to replace being right with getting it right by growing their emotional intelligence and their curiosity muscle. Because emotions are strongly correlated with performance and productivity, teams whose members feel emotionally supported and appreciated through their challenges and successes will be happier and more productive. They will want to celebrate their successes, so they will work harder and more effectively together to be successful.

So what type of leader are you? Where would you put your leadership skillset on the scale of Old Leadership Paradigm ~ New Leadership Paradigm? If the new way of leading people sounds warm and fuzzy or lacks substance for you, I've got you covered. Here are 7 questions to get you started talking to your team in the New Leadership way. They're free, valuable and will #levelupyourleadership

In Service To Your Greatness,


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