The Executive Brief

Inspire, Respect & Reward: Lessons from Jack Wiley

Bob Schoenbaum Culture, Hiring, Private Companies

I recently attended a presentation given by Jack Wiley, a renowned consultant who has built a career writing, teaching and researching what employees want most and what factors best promote employee engagement, performance confidence and business success.

Jack presented findings from his book Strategic Employee Surveys: Evidence-based Guidelines for Driving Organizational Success, in which he asked the following question: what is it you want most from your top leader? The study drew data from 47,000 employees in 186 companies in 22 countries. These countries represent 80% of the world’s gross domestic product.

So, what do employees want from their top leader?


The research found the three things employees want most from their top leader are to be inspired, respected and rewarded. Based on the questions asked in the surveys, here’s how employees define each:

Inspire: Employees want a leader who is highly skilled, provides clear direction and is honest and transparent in their communication style.

Respect: Employees want a leader who recognizes and appreciates the contribution employees are making, treats employees fairly and equitably and is considerate and understanding.

Reward: Employees want a leader who delivers fair and appropriate compensation, pays for performance and provides career growth and job security.

The real value of any research is to analyze the results and understand the impact. Wiley's study found that companies in the top quartile had:

  • Employee engagement scores almost 3.5x higher
  • Employee confidence 2.5x higher
  • Excellent customer satisfaction scores
  • Profitability twice as high as the companies in the bottom quartile

It is not surprising that high performing organizations have top leaders who inspire, respect and reward for performance. My career as an executive recruiter has provided me with an informal MBA in leadership and I believe it is safe to conclude that if the research had gone deeper, it would have found that most of the top performing companies also have employees who are accountable and are aligned around a shared set of core values. This is because leaders who do the three things mentioned earlier will hire, reward and promote leaders who do the same.

Of course, these are not the only components that factor into making a successful business. There is the right strategy, marketing, products, quality control, etc. But you cannot succeed without a solid foundation and it starts with having an effective top leader.

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