The great leadership debt that is affecting businesses across Australia

Travis Thomas, Professional corporate coach

Too many of our leaders are avoiding confrontation and direct communication with their employees and are thus causing a massive leadership vacuum in corporate Australia.

Professional corporate coach Travis Thomas expounded that this leadership debt is greatly restricting Australian businesses and hampering the next generation of leaders.

“There is a giant leadership vacuum across middle-tier businesses. The biggest issue is failing to address problems in business early, and avoiding direct and difficult conversations.”

“Whenever the conflict or conversation is avoided it creates a leadership debt, and the issue is rife in Australia. Every decision you make and every failed interaction or non-interaction with an employee accumulates a debt and companies will inherit that debt.”

“You will either pay for it up front or it will cost you later. It’s a bit like a credit card. You can pay the minimum payments but you’re going to owe a lot of money at some point.”

“Leaders need to be invested in their people to even start getting the results they’re after.”

Poor leadership will lead to low employee morale. It not only slows productivity but increases the companies rate of staff turnover and ultimately comes at a cost to the business.

“In the current dynamic business aspect of record low unemployment, it has never been easier for disengaged employees to leave workplaces where things never change.”

“When a person in a leadership position does not have the right qualities to lead, can’t communicate effectively and has no emotional intelligence and competence, their behaviour will eventually erode the company culture and effect the bottom line of the business.”

“In the event of an absence of a goal-oriented leader with a vision, employees are more likely to experience a lack of direction, teamwork suffers and performance lags.”

Qualities of strong leadership in business

Consistent communication

What separates the good leaders from the weaker ones is steady, regular communications.

Ad-hoc dialogues and mixed messages make staff uneasy and creates an uncertainty. While it’s the most important skill for leaders to have, it’s also the most common weakness.

Spot fires are better than bushfires

Taking care of a small problem facilitates preventing leadership debt growing out of control. But too many leaders in Australia avoid confrontation or hope issues will go away.

Having the courage to air, tackle and resolve your concerns is of huge benefit to leaders and the people they work with.

Avoid sugar coating, jargon and corporate-speak

Leaders should endeavor to have the difficult conversation and don’t use euphemisms, jargon or corporate speak to soften the blow if you have difficult news to convey.

More often, it leads to the message you’re trying to communicate being lost altogether.

Have empathy

The goodwill you can generate by looking at issues from their point of view is extraordinary.

Business leaders and executives in the post pandemic work environment need to consider how their team’s needs may have changed, particularly over the last two years.

As work and personal lives merge, there’s a new dialogue of childcare, school pick-ups and marital issues taking place in the hybrid office and leaders need to embrace this reality.

Prioritise flexibility

Employees expectations and priorities have changed and office-based perks won’t cut it in the new work world. Talk to  employees and ask them how you can support them.

Incentive schemes like flexible working, better resources for remote working and career progress plans will improve morale and retain skilled workers than salary increases.

Think differently and articulate your vision

The pandemic has shown people want a different style of leadership and leaders with a vision.

Managers were forced to make quick decisions and the speed in which some moved their workforce made those leaders appear more accessible, humane and empathetic.

It’s therefore a template that employees are currently expecting so as to work in high trust organisations and if the leaders can’t deliver it, they will lose their workforce.

Mr Thomas says that leading in this new work world will require deploying of new competencies and trust so that there is certainty in what has become an uncertain world.

“A clear vision, consistency of purpose, behaviour, judgements and engagements is vital.”