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Our changing workplace landscape has brought about a need for inspirational, engaging leadership which is both authentic and measurably effective. However, the relationship we have with our role fundamentally defines how engaged we are in our work.  This week’s blog explores the evidence for maintaining and improving employee engagement through a combination of transformational and self leadership styles.

Engagement is the coupling of an individual to their role. When an employee is engaged they go about their work energetically and with enthusiasm, often going above and beyond the call of duty. They are resilient in the face of challenges and focused in how they go about meeting and completing their tasks (Schaufelli & Bakker, 2004). However, engagement levels naturally fluctuate across the working week, meaning that even the most engaged employees are susceptible to an off day.

Profit and profitability…

Flexible working and employee autonomy are increasingly being recognised as effective strategies for boosting employee engagement. The overarching goal of course, being increased profitability for the organisation through raised productivity. But raising the profit line is more complex than simply paying lip service to contemporary HRM trends. Effective application means having a strategy for work and then working that strategy. The modern, lean working environment encourages a light touch in terms of monitoring employee performance and delivery, but in this evolving landscape, when is the right time to lead and when is it right to step away?

The hustle…

According to recent research by Breevaart, Bakker, Demerouti & Derks (2015), there are times when it is almost impossible for transformational leadership to inspire and challenge, such as when employees work variable hours, from home or in remote locations. This reduction in leader inspired motivation and engagement and the subsequent reduction in the positive effects of transformational leadership, have made it more important than ever for organisations to focus on their effectiveness of their self-leadership initiatives for employees.

Context is everything…

An optimistic vision of the future is a signature characteristic of the transformational leader. This vision provides a meaningful context for employees to feel that they are contributing to a positive picture. However, the degree of ownership we feel over a piece of work sets the context for engagement levels with regard to specific tasks and our focus for completing them. Self control and self determination are critical factors for self-leadership and higher engagement levels, developed through the agency to create change within a role. Evidence indicates that self-leadership encourages positive thoughts about work and its intrinsic rewards, giving extrinsic rewards for a job well done.

The work of Breevaart et al (2015) indicates that employees are far from passive consumers of leadership. Employees can effectively transform a positive message into efficient self-leadership strategies including taking corrective action when they are performing poorly. With a link to lower levels of absenteeism and at a time when flexible working patterns and locations are on the rise, self-leadership may be the next logical step in workplace development and innovation.

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Breevaart, K., Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Derks, D. (2015). Who takes the lead? A multi source diary study on leadership, work engagement and job performance. Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 37, 309-325.

Schaufeli, W. B., & Bakker, A. B. (2004). Work engagement: The measurement of a concept. Gedrag en Organisatie, 17, 89–112.

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