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How Do Different Leaders View Engagement and Performance?


Company’s large and small struggle with keeping employees engaged at work and in their roles. This issue has become so prominent that many organizations have taken the proactive step of hiring leaders to specifically address employee engagement and the overall employee experience.

The reason companies are investing resources to improve and enhance employee engagement is due to the correlation it has with productivity and performance.

A recent study from Six Disciplines, What Employees Say Drives Performance and Engagement, further explored this important topic. The report also explored why businesses with holistic systems of management tend to grow faster and are more profitable.


The first part of the study revealed findings around the top factors that influence employee performance. In total, respondents were given 65 management practices to choose from. Here are the top 5 responses:

  • Getting people to understand and commit to strategy – 76.1%
  • Openness and honesty – 75.7%
  • Ability to explore long-term financial implications of strategic goals & policies – 75%
  • Setting a pace of change that strikes an effective balance between strategic change and current operating demands – 74.5%
  • Clarifying the gaps between what the current path is and the desired path to strategic vision – 74%

Next, the survey asked self-leaders – those who lead themselves and don’t manage others – about their thoughts on engagement. Here are the top five answers:

  • The organization cares about me – 83.4%
  • Openness and honesty – 81.7%
  • I care about the organization – 81.1%
  • Lives our values – 79.7%
  • People around me are enthused about their work – 79.6%

From the data, it is clear that employee’s in this group want to care about their organization, want to be around others who care, and overall want to be a part of something that matters.

Employees who feel like this at work are far more likely to be engaged and perform at a higher level.


The survey next explores four different levels of organizational leadership and how they view engagement and performance: Senior LeadershipMiddle ManagementFrontline Leaders, and Self-Leaders.

When looking specifically at performance, the survey found that each of the four levels of leadership have different viewpoints on what drives it. When looking at the responses from each group, there is very little, if any, overlap.

This is due to the fact that each leadership level has different time frames to work with, and a different scope of activities that they are working on. Check out the survey results to read more about this part of the survey.

Next, the report showed how important a management system is to each leadership group:

  • Senior leadership – 74%
  • Middle management – 87%
  • Frontline leaders – 88%
  • Self-leaders – 87%

The results show that the type of management system matters more at lower levels of leadership.

The next part of the survey shows how engaged members of each leadership group are. The data revealed that engagement drops as you move down each level:

  • Senior leadership – 82%
  • Middle management – 77%
  • Frontline leaders – 73%
  • Self-leaders – 67%

For managers, it is worth keeping these numbers in mind, as it means that team members who report to you might not be as engaged as you think.


The last results of the What Employees Say Drives Performance and Engagement survey showed the skills that self-leaders (the largest of the leadership groups) listed as engagement drivers, and those that are performance drivers.

Here are the engagement drivers:

  • The organization cares about me – 88%
  • Openness and honesty – 84.1%
  • I care about the organization – 84.1%
  • Lives our values – 83.5%
  • People around me are enthused about their work – 83.4%

And here are performance drivers:

  • Strategic leadership sets long-term vision and align resources accordingly – 77%
  • Openness and honesty – 76.5%
  • This is a focus/mindset of constant improvement – 76.5%
  • Workgroups are managed in an organized, productive way – 76.1%
  • Plans are reviewed and revised for department, projects, etc., on a regular basis – 75.7%

What’s important to note here is how engagement drivers revolve more around “soft” skills (attitude and relationship factors) while performance drivers are based more on “hard” skills (identifiable systems and processes).

Additionally, it is worth noting that the only response that appears on both lists is “openness and honesty.” This shows just how important it is for leadership, employers, and organizations as a whole today.


The Six Disciplines survey was taken by more than 600 individuals in 3 different industries. Company sizes for the respondents ranged from 100 to 2,500 employees who made up four different leadership roles, came from different educational backgrounds, and had different levels of responsibilities within their organizations.

You can view the full background on the survey respondents in the report released by Six Disciplines.

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