How Leaders Engage Employees to Show Up

By Dr. Mary Kay

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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Last week I heard a group of leaders say, “If our leaders could just engage our employees to work when they are here, we would be unstoppable!” Can you relate to this?

Now, let’s think about this situation from the perspective of employees. “If we could just get great leaders to want to come to work and enjoy working with us, we would be unstoppable!”

An interesting perspective, isn’t it?

Leaders, We Can Only Control Our Actions

Can you really make an employee want to do their best? The keyword is “make.” We can inspire employees, but we cannot control them. If you want your employees to be motivated and loyal, it all starts with you!

To garner higher-quality employees, look at your own actions and ethics, and think about any improvements you could make to attract the type of team members that you want.

We have asked employees, “What is it you want from your managers?”

From this question, I have identified four leadership qualities that employees want:

1. A True Desire to See People Succeed

Employees need leaders who want the best for their team members and will do what they can to help employees achieve their goals.

This shows employees that the leaders are invested in their outcomes—that the leaders are part of the team, not just the people in charge of it.

2. A Positive View of the World

Leaders are confident in themselves, and they project that attitude to those around them. They see others as equals and treat everyone fairly, never speaking negatively about anyone or discouraging them from trying new things.

3. An Outward Focus with an Inner Drive

What does this mean? Leaders have innate wills to succeed, and they use that not for personal gain but to help their others get ahead.

They are not solely motivated by money or power but by a sense of personal ambition that is expressed through the betterment of their employees, their divisions, and their entire organization.

4. Belief in People

Employees want to do their best, want to believe in their managers, and want their managers to believe in them.

This shows a well-rounded approach to leadership and conveys that you have a stake in employee and team success, not just your individual success.

Why Do People Follow You?

Ask yourself, why do people follow me? Is it because I’m the boss? Because I’m so charming? Or because people trust me?

True leadership is based on a foundation of trust and respect, where you are frank, fair, firm, and friendly with everyone you have the opportunity to lead.

When you create a fantastic, uplifting culture, you’ll attract others who thrive in that situation as well. In fact, you may find yourself garnering new team members (and even leaders) from your competition that drove away from their best staff with reactive practices and autocratic management.

If you’re creating a positive culture, the word will spread, and you will begin to attract others who share your values.

You Are Known in the Industry

Recently I met an individual who had just been hired. He seemed innovative, and he demonstrated both high energy and flexibility. These are two fantastic factors for someone who wants to go into a leadership position.

When I mentioned to this fellow that he seemed like a perfect fit for the culture we were creating at this organization, he said that several people had told him that already.

The recruiter who had interviewed him for the job, in fact, had told him that this organization would provide him with everything he was looking for in a job. It seemed to me as though that recruiter had been right – he was a perfect match.

You could call it a coincidence, but I believe that the right employee, job, and leader had all found each other. When a match like that happens, it’s hard to deny. And you can bet that the employee in question will be so thankful; he’ll do whatever it takes to keep his job secure.

I’ve known employees in our client companies who received several offers a month from other companies trying to lure them away with promises of better compensation packages or more prestige, and they turned every one of them down because they were so happy with the company they worked for. They could not imagine leaving such a supportive, positive work environment.

On occasion, it does happen that other organizations’ attention will sway a team member, and they will end up leaving for a position that offers more pay or a better title. I’ve seen it happen. But those who leave, in time, will come back to the leader and the culture that they loved in the first place.

As they find out, money and prestige are no substitutes for trust and teamwork.

Bottom Line

Effective leaders continually have the employees’ perspectives in mind. Instead of relying solely on their personalities, they create an air of authenticity around themselves.

They project an image of confidence and success that becomes contagious. Anyone who passes their way wants to get in on the good thing they appear to have.

Great leaders aren’t interested in people following them because of who they are in the organization but simply because of who they are, and that is why the best people are drawn to them and work harder than anyone else.

How Can Leaders Engage Employees to Show Up?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and co-founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained thousands of leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Success course helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
  • David McCuistion says:

    Dr. Whitaker:

    The 4 Leadership Qualities that employees want in a manager is right on. I would turn the question around and ask Managers, “What qualities do you desire in employees — those you are leading? I think you would get very near the same answers.

    Managers and followers need to understand that “It isn’t about them, it is about others.” I say that about followers because I believe and have seen in my past experiences that there are leaders at all levels in the organization. I have had leaders at the bottom of the organizational chart who were better leaders than those in “identified” leadership positions.

    As you say above, the true leadership is based on a foundation of trust and respect. It is my belief that “Trust begets Respect; Respect beges Trust.” You can’t have one without the other.

    Every leader must believe that everyone deserves a certain level of respect, which includes trust at an equal level. How far up or down is determined by the behavior of the individual.

    Thank you for the article. It is most valuable.


  • Dave Mohn says:

    Typically leading people with their best interests at forefront enables good output. The real challenge is in getting the low end wage earners to engage in company success. Without benefits and low pay they don’t always give their best effort. Encouraging comments seldom result in increased effort to do a good job; it appears that it leads them to believe that the quality of work at current level is enough. Their lives are often a mess so I don’t really want too know much about how they tick. Any suggestions would be welcome.

  • Lotus Inc says:

    True and ….lets add that the natural passion that lends itself to a spark of creativity should have a very positive aspect on tapping those leadrship traits!

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