We often wonder what makes people exceed expectations at work. Is it their pay, bonus or perks? Is it the exciting challenges at work? Maybe, it is the job title with its power and status in the company? Not really.

When leaders have a clear vision, are genuine and their mission at work is authentic, we feel good working with them and when we feel good, sky is the limit!

Enlightened leadership: Let us face it we are not working in a vacuum in a company. We work with others as a team and someone leads this effort. So, a leader plays a major hand in making everyone feel good. What do I mean by an enlightened leader? Someone who can awaken a positive feeling in others because she is genuine, purpose-driven and passionate about her work. This person has a clear vision for the future, is customer-driven, believes that every employee’s contribution matters and remains fully engaged in every aspect of the company, and last but not least, enjoys work and makes sure others enjoy too. The leader’s presence — thoughts, words and actions — is felt and it energizes people.

Don’t think that such a person does not exist. They do at all levels in a company and they inspire and elevate the performance of people at work.

In such a powerful presence, you feel good, because what you do has a purpose and a clear vision, and what you do adds value or is perceived as making a difference in the company. Feeling good awakens creativity, a drive for accomplishments and teamwork. Yes, an employee can be brilliant and self-motivated, but they thrive when they feel good.

I worked in customer communications for a nursing agency and remember the nurses who delivered healthcare at home for the elderly. They spoke with genuine interest about their patients and the nurses went the extra mile to bring comfort to their patients, because their motivation was not money, bonus or titles. The leader of the organization set the tone, awakening a sense of purpose, passion, making a difference for patients and genuinely caring for employee welfare. This awakened such a sense of purpose even among the non-healthcare staff – I could see how even my role in communications impacted patients.

Be engaged: You are a leader if you encourage people to have a vision and if you show how their work adds value. Don’t do it by giving mugs, awards, lunches or any other such trivia. That is not genuine. Do it by example – be willing to do the work if needed. I was surprised one day to see a senior bank executive at the teller window and when I asked, he said, “I don’t want to forget where I started. I dreamed and got to this level. I want everyone on the floor to dream too. And, here I feel the pulse of the bank – I cannot lose touch with customers.” People loved to work here because they felt, “if a senior executive is doing my job, then my job has meaning, does it not?” That is making your presence felt and being engaged in the company.

Sitting in the ivory tower and losing touch with customers or employees creates a cold dampening atmosphere where employees are as disengaged as the manager. This is reflected in company’s poor performance, which has senior executives worried and they hire expensive consultants to examine why productivity is low and why employees seem disengaged. This starts a vicious circle of employee surveys, training, team exercises, mugs and T-shirts. I find it offensive to see huge posters with phrases like:

Customer is # 1. Employee Opinion matters. Be part of a winning team.

Do these make a dent in performance? NO! It is simple – you are disengaged, and it is no surprise your employees are also disengaged.

Also, being engaged does not mean looking over someone’s shoulder. It means that you stay in touch with customers and employees.

Be in touch with customers – feel the pulse of your organization. Your value-add is visible when you have a chance to work directly with a customer, does it not? Everyone in the company needs to have one chance to come directly in contact with a customer.

Be in touch with employees – sit down with your staff, chat in general about the industry, talk with them about your vision, your work, and how their work contributes to this vision and ask them to share their vision for work – make them feel part of the solution to business challenges!

Everyone in the company has a right to feel good. Make employees feel good and you will be surprised to discover their true potential. It is a smart growth strategy for your company; I would call it a strategic imperative for success. A leader’s performance has to be measured by the percent feeling good in the organization.