The Engaging Leader

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You’ve heard it before—engagement matters. Time and again our data has shown us that employees and their behavior are at the center of business success. Engaged employees deliver better business performance, are more connected and committed to their companies, and strive to go above and beyond far more than their less engaged peers. Yet on a global level, only 6 out of 10 employees are engaged, and the solutions for improving engagement have become increasingly complex for companies operating in an environment of instability and varied economic conditions.

We also know strong leadership is the consistent differentiator to how Aon Hewitt Best Employers achieve both top quartile engagement levels and better business results.

The Leadership-Engagement Link

Aon Hewitt’s Global Employee Research Database of seven million respondents puts us in a unique position to understand the leadership behaviors that drive employee engagement. We learned that engaging leaders have three fundamental similarities: They had early experiences that shaped them; they have unique belief systems and personality traits; and they behave in unique ways that positively and exponentially impact the engagement of those around them. Thus, we have developed The Engaging Leader model below that shows the engaging leader profile is built through the leader’s Guiding Beliefs, Displayed Behaviors and Critical Experiences.


This is what makes engagement happen.

Another clear theme that emerged from our study of engaging leadership was that in order to engage others, leaders must first be engaged themselves. This is an important prerequisite concept that seems to be grounded in both the Guiding Beliefs and Displayed Behaviors in our model. Before companies can look to their leaders to engage the masses, they must first understand and create engagement in the leadership ranks. Like most people, leaders are engaged by career opportunities, pay and recognition, and working for a company with a strong reputation.

However, leaders are uniquely engaged by their own leaders (suggesting a multiplier network effect), the quality of the other senior leaders around them, and the people and work processes that enable them to do their jobs. These are the external drivers of leader engagement—but we also know from this engaging leader research and our selection research that a leader’s personality, beliefs and style have a significant impact.

The Engaging Leader model is not meant to be a checklist for how to be an engaging leader. The experiences, beliefs and behaviors “show up” differently in each leader. What is consistent, however, is how these leaders bring their experiences and beliefs to bear in order to engage. They:

  • Step upby proactively owning solutions
  • Energize peopleby keeping them focused on purpose and vision
  • Connect and Stabilizeby listening, staying calm and unifying others
  • Serve and Growby empowering, enabling and developing their people
  • Stay Groundedthrough humble, open, candid and authentic communications and behavior

Next Steps

So, where do we go from here? How do we take this new perspective on engagement and put it to good use in an organizational context? We think the path forward might look something like this:

  • Measure employee and leadership engagement.
  • Assess and select for engaging leadership
  • Coach and develop
  • Engage the disengaged leaders

The previous recommendations are not a program—they’re a culture change. And the change starts and ends with individual leaders. So as a leader, ask yourself:

  • How energized, motivated and engaged are you in your job?
  • What drives you?
  • What were your experiences as a leader that made you grow and become engaged?
  • How can you support others in being exposed to similar experiences?
  • What are your beliefs about the role of the leader?
  • What are your beliefs about people and work?
  • How present are you with others?
  • If not you, then who?

Aon Hewitt Solutions

Aon Hewitt can help your organization build a culture of engagement through your leaders. Our solutions, which can be tailored to meet your organization’s needs, include:

  • Engaging Leader Workshop.
  • Engaging Leader Assessment Suite.
  • Engaging Leader Selection Solutions.
  • Engaging Leader Development Events.
  • Engaging Leader Coaching.

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