Thinking Differently About Leadership in Business

Thinking differently about leadership in business

Leadership is about taking a stand, making decisions, and helping everyone achieve a common goal. It’s about bringing people together, and it can be extremely powerful. Good leadership is at the centre of where truly remarkable things happen. The impossible becomes possible. Lives are changed. The problem, however, is that not everyone is intentional about how they do this. 

The “Do it all” Business Owner 

Take the business owners who are “doing it all” at all costs. They work 120 hours a week to get all the work done. It’s reactive, last-minute, and chaotic for everyone involved. Intentionally or not, they are taking a stand for hustle culture and getting everything done “at all costs” including the health and well-being of themselves and their staff.

  • Are there opportunities to work more effectively? Yes. 
  • Are their staff tired and burned out? Yes.
  • Is their business profitable and growing? Hopefully, but they are too busy to know what’s going on. 

The Reluctant CEO

What about the CEO who doesn’t want to be the CEO? They care more about being liked, so they don’t handle conflict within the organization, make decisions, or take a stand for anything unless it’s to ask others to do it for them. Intentionally or not, they are taking a stand for toxic workplace culture; the lack of a common agenda means everyone is acting on their own agenda with no or minimal consequences. 

  • Are there opportunities to work more effectively? Yes. 
  • Are their staff tired and burned out? Yes.
  • Is their business profitable and growing? Hopefully, but their lack of internal alignment means resources are being wasted unnecessarily.

A good leader is empathetic enough to listen and appreciate their team yet assertive enough to make decisions, have hard conversations and take a stand for the big agenda of the company. They know how to reel in their teams when they go rogue and recover when they make a mistake. It’s not about doing it perfectly but about doing it in partnership. 

Let’s dive into why this is so important. 

“People aren’t replaceable.”

“People aren’t replaceable.” This is a common belief, but one that I challenge. As a leader, unfortunately I’ve come to realize that people are, in fact, replaceable in the context of companies and their operations. 

We’ve seen this story play out over and over again.

  • In 2024 alone, 287 tech companies have laid off more than 81.072, and it’s only mid-May
  • Restructuring happens in organizations where the leadership team is changed, entire departments are shut down, or a company is acquired, shaking up the entire organization. 
  • A key staff member quits without notice to “show them,” and the company continues anyway. 

Businesses are made to be resilient. They will find ways to continue business as usual, even if it is challenging, whether it’s staff taking on the extra workload, hiring contract workers, or the ball dropping.

It breaks the system when people take the stand that “people aren’t replaceable,” even when done as a noble cause. Information is hoarded, tasks are safeguarded, and the team stops working together. People start acting as separate parts of the system, contributing to a toxic workplace culture, and it stops supporting the organization as a whole. 

As leaders, there are a few things to take away from this:
  1. Always treat people with respect and dignity. That’s always non-negotiable. 
  2. Going rogue and against the system doesn’t fix the system. It often just burns those people out even more. Instead, can you find ways to work with the system, slowly shifting it towards something more positive for everyone?
  3. Be the leader in your own life. Know when it’s time to leave.

Earning Employee Loyalty and Retention

The other side of the story is also true: with more options and information available, employees no longer have the loyalty to companies they used to. Companies must earn employee loyalty and retention.

Leadership in business. Top factors in turnover. 

According to the Financial Post, 15% of Canadian companies report turnover costs them at least $100,000 annually. The average cost to replace employees, including rehiring and lost productivity, is $30,674 per person. 

The top factors driving higher turnover include:

  • better pay/benefits offered elsewhere (37%)
  • employees resigning (31%)
  • increased workplace demands (25%)
  • employees retiring (24%), and 
  • the competitive job market (24%).

More than one-fifth of companies believe increased turnover will be in part due to:

  • Employees feeling overworked (22%)
  • Better perks (e.g., summer Fridays, unlimited vacation days) offered elsewhere (21%)
  • More advancement opportunities elsewhere (19%) and 
  • Lack of remote work options (19%).
As leaders, there are a few things to take away from this:
  1. Loyalty and retention are a privilege, not a right. Companies must continue earning this every day. 
  2. There will always be another company willing to pay more, offer better perks, and offer better opportunities. Create an environment where your employees don’t want to leave because they love their work and team and get paid well for what they do. Know what is important to your employees and double down on that. (hint: it’s not the pizza party lunch). 

The reality is that small businesses are struggling right now.

Interest rates and the cost of living are through the roof, meaning most people prioritize spending on essential things like food, rent, and utilities. It is harder than ever to get people to spend their money. 

According to a poll done through Slack of over 2,000 small business owners, 32% stated they weren’t sure if their business would make it through this year, and 38% said they were more worried about their business this year than at the start of 2023. 

As business owners, we are being called to think differently and find ways to work smarter, not harder. My LinkedIn newsletter article, “Doing more with less,” explains more about getting more impact and results with less time, money, people and resources. 

My Vision

I dream of a world where businesses, employees, executives, and clients work together in partnership.

  • Businesses have a big agenda: to contribute positively to the world and solve real problems for their customers and clients. It takes a stand for employee health and well-being and working smarter, not harder. 
  • Executives work together as a leadership team to bring that big agenda to life by creating synergy with their teams toward the big agenda. They radically challenge and debate decisions in a healthy, respectful way, and once that decision is made, everyone supports it and gets behind it. They work together. 
  • Employees contribute to their teams in meaningful ways—their work matters. It’s challenging and rewarding, and they can see how their work contributes to the company’s bigger agenda. They feel appreciated and valued without having to work non-stop. 
  • Clients / Customers are involved in the solution. They are respected for their knowledge contributions and valued because they sometimes understand the problem better than the business does. Still, the business provides tremendous value to the client/customer, so their services are a no-brainer for them. 

They all work together in a collaborative partnership, supporting each other, working together and creating the ripple effect of building a more positive world. 

And I’ve seen this done before. I’ve run successful, small teams with minimal resources and achieved really big things. It required strong executive buy-in (if the leadership team isn’t on board, nothing will happen), a high-performing team (with radical candour and a strong operational structure in service of flow) and taking a stand as a leader to be open to doing things differently.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Closing Thoughts

Businesses used to be a cornerstone in our communities, creating jobs, bringing people together, and improving the world. However, in recent years, businesses have lost sight of that, with the trend towards growth at all costs.

The world has changed, and we are all being called to lead and think differently. 

Leadership must be at the forefront of any business strategy and invested in at all levels, organization-wide. It can’t be a siloed solution, or it won’t be effective. 

Are you willing to become a better leader, too?

I partner with organizations to develop leadership cultures by coaching emerging leaders and executives and creating operational leadership structures to work more effectively and efficiently. Let’s work smarter, not harder. 

Book a 30-minute consulting call with me, and let’s explore the possibilities together. 

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