If you look at the United States, the total number of mass layoff events was more than 23,000 in 2008, involving nearly 2.4 million individuals. In the United Kingdom, unemployment levels rose by 530,000 people over the three quarters beginning in July 2008. Some of the world’s leading companies are trimming their workforces due to the economic pressures of what we are now told by our elected leaders is a “deep” recession.
Indeed, a great number of companies are facing this challenge, but those with effective leadership are faring much better. So how can leaders stabilize the workforce to ensure that the inherent uncertainty in today’s environment and associated redundancies at their own companies aren’t divisive and disrupt business as usual? Businesses need to understand what it is that employees look for from their leaders, whether that be the senior team or the line manager.
Between 2005 and 2008, as part of a comprehensive study about why people follow leaders, Gallup collected information from more than 10,000 national adults (aged 18 and over) to obtain their opinions about leadership and why they follow. This research formed part of our larger study on leadership, including more than 20,000 in-depth interviews with leaders, behavioral research data from more than 1 million work teams, and polling results from 50 years of research.
In our follower study, respondents were asked to name the leader who has the most positive influence in their daily life. The word positive was included to ensure that we were not studying leaders who have a predominantly negative influence. Then they were asked to list three words that best describe what that leader contributes to their life.