On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Sally Blount

Sally Blount

Sally Blount is dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. An internationally recognized expert in the fields of negotiation and behavioral decision-making, she has more than 20 years of experience in higher education.

Provide a narrative for your organization

Q: One of the key findings the 2010 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey is that worker satisfaction is more profoundly affected by perceptions of top management than by their immediate supervisor. What lessons can top leaders in the public and private sector glean from this?

What this finding reinforces for me is that people in organizations are hungry for meaning, for understanding how what they do each day contributes to a greater purpose, a greater mission. This is particularly true for people drawn to work in the governmental and not-for-profit sectors, where pay is not a primary motivator in job choice.

A primary job of leaders in these organizations is to provide a sense of purpose, a narrative for what that organization stands for and how it contributes to making the world a better place. Their job is to help give organizational members something to believe in when they come to work each day.

What these findings should remind all of us, regardless of which sector we inhabit, is the power of meaning in making work fulfilling. This is true at every layer of our organizations. Compensation systems and day-to-day supervision are the traditional levers of good job design, but it's culture and mission that are the truly powerful tools in moving people toward common action and heightening dedication to our work.

Meaning matters. Top leaders understand and reify that. They provide this meaning through carefully chosen words, vivid images and stories, and by affirming employees who exemplify the organization's values.

By Sally Blount

 |  August 31, 2010; 8:47 AM ET
Category:  A leader's team , Accomplishing Goals , Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Leaders engage top to bottom | Next: Understanding the stakeholders


Please report offensive comments below.

A corolary to this is that you must also give the employees the tools they need to perform the mission. My greatest issue with this whole leadership discussion is that a great leader who is an incompetent manager is probably worse than an incompetent leader who is a good manager.

Posted by: will4567 | September 1, 2010 9:05 AM
Report Offensive Comment

That's so eighties ~ I thought all those folks had retired already.

Posted by: muawiyah | August 31, 2010 10:34 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company