As I listened to the news story of the 15 Yorkshire Regiment soldiers who were jailed for protesting against being “led by muppets”, I found myself applying this to the world of leadership in other work places. Of course not so much the “muppet” part, I think leaders have a tough job!
I can imagine some of our baby-boomer leaders thinking of this as another example of the crisis of discipline; something that “wouldn’t have happened in my day”. Their behaviour could be seen as undermining the sacred rule that responding to a command is the only way to avoid chaos.
Leadership development efforts in recent years have focused on encouraging leaders not to use command and control, but rather to use coaching and empowering techniques. With this in mind, what leadership lessons can we take from this demonstration by the soldiers?
The soldiers actions should not be seen as being insubordinate or anti-disciplinarian; they were angry at not being engaged. The prosecutor at the court martial said members of the platoon had been seething at the way they were being managed, and felt that they were “not appreciated”. The troops were said to have been furious at finding their two commanders asleep, rather than greeting the soldiers as they crossed the finish line.
I recalled the recent statistics that only 13% of employees report being engaged at work and wonder how much simmering anger is in our work places? While perhaps not as dramatic as the soldiers who were prepared to be court-martialed for taking a stand (or in this instance, sit!), we see daily examples of loss of energy, focus, and attention. Are there undercurrents of bad feeling and anger in your workplace arising from people that do not feel appreciated, or are badly managed? Could it be as high as 87% of them?
In the modern workplace we need leaders who will act. Leaders who acknowledge anger and recognise that their words and actions need to align with the expectations of their teams. We need leaders who:
- Pay attention
- Sit with people
- Are at the finish line waiting
- Ask people how they want to be appreciated and led
This isn’t about the old guard versus the new, however beware the millennials in your organisation who may start demanding change!