A young woman in a gray windowpane plaid dress leans over a table and uses a pen to point at a paper on the table. Four other people are seated at the table and are looking in the direction of the woman's pen.
An engaging leadership style involves connecting with employees in a way that strengthens their skills, fosters open communication, and gives work a sense of meaning. — Getty Images/fizkes

Between the "Great Resignation" and "quiet quitters," business leaders have their hands full with attracting and retaining staff. So, how can you cut through the short attention spans of disconnected workers to make a difference? The solution is to level up your skills and become an engaging leader.

An engaging leader inspires employees and strengthens teams, resulting in higher employee engagement and better job performance. Your approach to leadership (and that of your management team) also influences corporate culture, staff satisfaction, and business outcomes. Improve your leadership skills by understanding how to engage while leading your team.

Understand what engaging leadership means

According to research in Frontiers in Psychology, "engaging leadership is defined as leadership behavior that facilitates, strengthens, connects and inspires employees in order to increase their work engagement." This leadership style satisfies primary psychological needs, including autonomy, competence, meaning, and connectedness.

Indeed, the benefits of being an engaging leader are significant. ScienceDaily reported that "supervisors perceived as engaged leaders" enhanced employee engagement and team effectiveness.

[Read more: 10 Business Leadership Styles and What They Mean]

Actively listen to your staff

Along with being compelling storytellers, engaging leaders excel at listening to their staff. They interact with employees without needing to dominate the conversation. The next time a team member approaches you, pay attention to your internal and external response. Are you hurrying them along or multi-tasking while they're talking? Or do you focus on them and their intent without bias or annoyance?

Improve your active listening skills by:

  • Observing body language in others and being aware of your own.
  • Concentrating on the purpose of a conversation, not on coming up with a response.
  • Asking questions to show you're listening and want to learn more.
  • Paraphrasing or repeating team members’ comments, giving them a chance to clarify or add context.

Encourage a sense of togetherness

Employees want to build positive relationships and feel part of a team. You can foster a collaborative environment that cultivates team spirit as a leader. Part of your role here is to mediate when personalities clash and to pay attention to team members who feel left out or unaccepted. However, it's equally important to work with your staff shoulder-to-shoulder.

Along with being compelling storytellers, engaging leaders excel at listening to their staff.

One of the best ways to motivate employees is to join them on a project, whether that's staying late to finish a task or knocking out routine maintenance so everyone can go home a few minutes early. Show them what needs to be done and the best way to do it instead of barking orders.

[Read more: 5 Ways to Be a Successful Leader, Even If You’re an Introvert]

Empower employees

Do you know what makes your employees tick? Or do you expect them to perform the job duties they signed up for and head home at the end of the day? Unlike machines, people don't do well when they feel like a number or an easily replaceable object. They crave meaning, even if their job borders on dull. An engaging leader positively interacts with their team, encouraging communication and supporting independence.

Increase staff autonomy by:

  • Asking staff for feedback regularly in person, over email, or during meetings.
  • Acknowledging their contribution towards a project or idea.
  • Using the process of job crafting to assign meaningful work.
  • Not micromanaging every part of an employee's day.
  • Delegating tasks with clear instructions and expectations.

Satisfy the need for growth and development

Many employees worry that their skills won't keep up with their position, or that their professional development will stagnate if they stay in the same role or with the same company for too long. You can take the lead here, even if your company doesn't offer worker training and development classes.

Here are ways you can help employees develop as professionals:

  • Look at your team members’ strengths and talents as individuals and in group settings.
  • Identify areas where they can (and want to) improve and show them ways to do so.
  • Provide opportunities to grow under your leadership through coaching moments.
  • Advocate for employee knowledge and skills training programs.

[Read more: How to Create Growth Opportunities for Employees Even If You're a Small Company]

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