Review of Engaged Leadership by Clint Swindall

Unwittingly I have just read a second business book (consecutively), which illustrated its points through a fable.  This one, Engaged Leadership: building a culture to overcome employee disengagement, by Clint Swindall is made up of two parts.  Engaged Leadership starts with a fable which follows recent business graduate, Seth, in his first year of employment as a manager.  The second part discusses the key issues relating to engaged leadership, that the character Seth learnt on the job.

Both the fable and the non-fiction section which follows are based on four key interlocking factors.  Engaged leadership according to Swindall, requires simultaneous delivery of directional, motivational, organizational and character core leadership.  Today’s fast paced business environment no longer requires ‘managers’ in the traditionally accepted sense with their task oriented focus.  Employees become more motivated and engaged through leaders who they value and aspire to.  Employee “empowerment … is based far more on culture than [traditional management relating to the] distribution of tasks” (p. 200).  Hence, a leader’s personal ethics, integrity and character must be strong and based in an attitude of service towards those they lead.

A leader must continually make a dedicated effort to inspire success.  Success and employee satisfaction are more quickly realized when they are given the authority to solve issues they come across.  This has two preferable results.  Firstly, external customer issues are sorted in acceptable timeframes (rather than simple tasks being transferred among multiple people).  Secondly, internal customers (employees), are empowered to control their destiny.  “Knowing consequences [both good and bad they have the] opportunity to decide [their] own fate” (p. 172).  In both applications, clear and consistent communication and access to enough information and progress updates are critical so employees can make informed decisions.  As Swindall aptly puts it “uninformed employee[s are likely to also be] disengaged employees” (p. 162).

An engaged employee will be one who has been given goals, flexibility, resources and the authority to achieve through a supportive leader.  Swindoll says “employees [need] something to run toward, not from” (p. 182).  Engaged Leadership contains a lot of advice to managers to help get engaged employees to help motivate other staff.  It is important to acknowledge small successes.  Celebrations of past and present should be daily, not quarterly!  Quarterly meetings do have their place – each team and its individual members need to form a consensus regarding the organizations direction and their part in achieving it.

I have been fortunate that to date I have not needed to fire anyone.  However, I was thankful to read Swindall’s thoughts relating to this issue.  He says “there are only four reasons people fail … skill, knowledge, resource or motivation” (p. 121).  All of these a manager can directly influence.  Relevant solutions are detailed in Engaged Leadership relating to each reason for failure.    I was impressed with Swindall’s focus with managing ‘problem’ staff.  The solutions were designed to give the person the largest possibility for success in their current role.  However, if the employee still is below par, it provides the leader with a justifiable reason to suggest that employment elsewhere may be appropriate.

Swindall’s book Engaged Leadership would be particularly relevant to those entering a new leadership role.  I believe a newly employed manager could use the book as a guide, to ensure their team claims the passion to pursue the organizational vision.  Employees would understand they are being empowered by a future-focused leader to help individuals surpass the expectations of others, and themselves!  I certainly aim to be implementing this theory into the various leadership roles I have opportunity to fulfill.  How fabulous it is to have an influence on someone who surprises themselves and is rewarded for their own achievement!  You might like to buy a hard copy or a soft copy.

I’m always interested to receive feedback on my review or hear the thoughts of another regarding the content of the book – feel free to leave a comment below.

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