Employee Engagement

Leadership and Engagement

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

According to Gallup

The numbers rarely change. In the U.S., the annual Gallup survey shows that about 70% of our employees are NOT engaged. Meaning, they are putting in no extra effort to move the company forward. Employee engagement is the engine of productivity.

Job #1

The CEO, Founder, Owner of a company has one main job and that is to actively manage the corporate culture. Employee engagement is a direct function of the culture of the corporation.  My conclusion is that with only 70% of our employees engaged, we have a crisis in leadership.

I often get push back when I say the most important job of the 

Employee Engagement

leader is managing culture. There are a myriad of tactical things that the leader must accomplish (especially in small companies and start-ups). I get that. My view is that the big stone for the leader is Culture. A positive corporate culture will enhance employee engagement and will thereby reduce the number of tactical tasks on the leader’s plate.


It all starts with the core values of the organization. By definition, core values are those lived out everyday by the leadership team — which, most often, aren’t the ones on the coffee cups, banners or ball caps.

According to Daniel Pink, employees are engaged when they believe they have a competitive compensation package, autonomy, mastery and purpose. Or, to put it in David Marquet’s language, when employees enjoy intent-based leadership, technical competency, clarity of values and vision which lead to autonomy.


I define culture as “the way things get done around here.” It’s how people are treated. How decisions are made. And it is intuitively obvious that culture is based on values. So if a leader is not constantly thinking about and actively managing the corporate culture, then s/he is not living up to the responsibilities they have been given.

To paraphrase Myatt, solid values underpin great cultures which invite and enable employees to be fully engaged. The reverse is also true. Poor values create poor cultures resulting in disengaged employees and high turnover due to a toxic environment.

A Crisis of Leadership

Since leaders are responsible for establishing and living out the core values, which underpin the culture which in turn determines engagement of employees, then having disengaged employees to the level we have in the U.S. means we are suffering from a crisis in leadership. I’ll bet you think your employees are truly engaged. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you think your company is performing above average. Are you sure? Do you have hard data to support your assumption? What do things look like for you on Glassdoor? How about on Facebook and/or other social media? Have you commissioned third party anonymous surveys of employee engagement?

We as leaders are either part of the leadership crisis or we are working to be a center of excellence in a largely dysfunctional work environment in the U.S. And by the way, happy doesn’t mean engaged. So be careful what you are measuring. Remember that knowledge workers require competitive compensation, autonomy, mastery and a compelling vision (purpose).