Leadership at the intersection of three authors

“In total, workplace environments in the United States may be responsible for 120 thousand excess deaths per year – which would make workplaces the fifth leading cause of death – and account for about $180 billion in additional health-care expenditures. approximately 8 percent of total health care spending.”

Jeffrey Pfeffer, Ph. D. | Pfeffer, J. (2018). Dying For A Paycheck. Harper-Collins Publishers. New York, NY.

I don’t know about you, but this quote from Dr. Pfeffer’s book caught my attention. By the way, Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, so this book is based upon sound research.

Now, with all that has happened, I am of the hope that our thinking has been shaken up a bit to better understand just how our workplace culture has not only kept good people from doing their best work, but that toxic workplaces are harming the emotional, mental, and physical health of people.

Another book I like is The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. In their book, they propose five practices of an exemplary leader. These practices put in place with the right motive (discussed next) will help in the process of changing the workplace culture. The five practices are:

  1. Model The Way – leaders must model the high standards and behaviors they expect of those they lead.
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision – are you enlisting others in a common vision that not only benefits the organization but the employees as well?
  3. Challenge the Process – are you, as the leader, searching out opportunities to innovate, grow, and improve – for the organization, for the people you lead, and for yourself? Are you growing?
  4. Enable Others to Act – Are you building trust and fostering collaboration on your team? The authors mention that one indicator is how often you use “we” versus “I”.
  5. Encourage the Heart – Leaders are most often seeing the gap between where they are and where they want to go. The result can be driving themselves, and those they lead, relentlessly. It is important to take the time to stop and recognize the contributions of the people you lead. It is important to stop and to acknowledge to your team how far the team has advanced. So, how are you encouraging others?

Reward-centered leadership: the belief that being a leader is the reward for hard work; therefore, the experience of being a leader should be pleasant and enjoyable, free to choose what they work on and avoid anything mundane, unpleasant, or uncomfortable.

Responsibility-centered leadership: the belief that being a leader is a responsibility; therefore, the experience of leading should be difficult and challenging (though certainly not without elements of personal gratification).” – Patrick Lencioni

Lencioni, P. (2020). The Motive. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ.

So, what is your motive for being a leader?

It seems to me that a leader with a responsibility-centered motive, that is leading in the fashion of the five practices of exemplary leadership mentioned above should produce a healthy and vibrant workplace that avoids creating a toxic workplace that damages people as mentioned by Jeffrey Pfeffer above.

It is really your choice.