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By David Harder on April, 12, 2017

What is an Engagement CEO?

According to Gallup, only 13% of the world’s workers are engaged. How are we getting anything done? Well, we are doing it in a trance. Many of my readers were taken with the shocking levels of disengagement behind the debacle at United Airlines. But, the only thing I have learned from the culture destruction by the company’s former CEO is to simply not fly on United Airlines.


In developing engagement solutions, I have come to the conclusion that CEOs can be just as disengaged as disgruntled line workers. One’s rank has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they have succumbed to a trance. We witness the trance in executives who lazily cut expenses by laying people off or tell human resources to “fix the engagement problem” and walk away. We possibly saw it in United’s new CEO Oscar Munoz when he first stood by the employees but not the customer. A fully engaged CEO does both.


What do we have to learn from CEOs running magnificent and magnetic cultures? In completing my new book The Workplace Engagement Solution(Career Press in August), I studied them. When we explore great cultures such as Southwest Airlines, Google, HBO and Trader Joe’s, we find CEOs that embrace at least several of the values that represent an “Engagement CEO.” Who embraces all of them? I put out the word that I was looking for CEOs that embodied all of these characteristics, one came back consistently and that was Adam Miller of Cornerstone on Demand. In the months ahead, you will be hearing more about Adam. His interview was jaw dropping in an organization that continues to grow by leaps and bounds, filled with people who love to be there.


In the meantime, please review the characteristics every board member, investor, and potential employee ought to be looking for in the keeper of their brand. It is my humble suggestion that before taking that job, look for these characteristics within the culture.


An Engagement CEO:

  • Takes charge of the culture personally
  • Develops a strong leadership brand as evidenced in their consistent behavior and message
  • Walks the talk, leads by example and leans toward democracy over elitism in any form
  • Expresses continuous, genuine and worthy praise to their employees
  • Constantly seeks ways to keep their talent current and relevant
  • Treats employees as the organization’s greatest asset versus a potential liability
  • Packages engagement as a profit source rather than an expense
  • Effectively manages and educates all stakeholders in the need for effective people initiatives
  • Moves the vision from short-term financial performance to long-term value, brand strength, and reputation
  • Tells themselves and others the truth, especially about change
  • Is resolutely and directly connected to the front line
  • Is transparent and expects transparency throughout their organization
  • Shows respect towards all employees and learns from all of them


Like all of us, CEOs need role models as well. So many of our business leaders have been infected by thinking from the 70’s and 80’s where numbers became king. Come on folks! Disco is dead! Why are we still here? The results are in. CEOs that live by this old-fashioned code must numb themselves.


Let us awaken!


Take me to your leader!


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.,


(c) Copyright, 2017, Inspired Work, Inc. (All Rights Reserved)