You Are a Leader. Act Like One.

Karl Bimshas
6 min readApr 30, 2024
You Are a Leader. Act Like One. by Karl Bimshas

For the past quarter century, employee engagement has mostly stayed the same. On average, 17% are Disengaged, 53% are neither engaged nor disengaged. (I call this the “Meh Group;” they could go either way), and 31% are Engaged. Sure, there have been ups and downs, but not by nearly as much as the doomsayers report or the glee club clings on to.

Employee Engagement based on Gallup publicly available polling numbers

If you’ve operated under the premise of my 30–50–20 rule of thumb, you’ll see the numbers have been close. They don’t change by much year over year, and they won’t, unless we do something dramatically better — or dramatically worse. I prefer leaders be more courageous and start making things dramatically better. Twenty-five years of data suggest that’s not an easy task. I have a long-held belief that all “good” leaders must be better — a true statement about how we govern our nation, our business enterprises, and, in no small part, how we govern ourselves.

“Two things and two things only are essential to real democracy. The first is an open road to talent; that is to say that every man shall have an opportunity to rise to positions of power and responsibility in proportion to his ability regardless of birth, privilege, caste, or other social barriers. The second essential of pure democracy is that they who are in positions of power and responsibility shall be made sensitive to the needs, the desires, and the interests of those over whom they exercise power and responsibility.”

From “Essays on Social Justice,” Thomas Nixon Carver, 1915.

It is tantalizingly easy for deceitful politicians and influencers to count on the short-term memory and forgiving spirit of the American people. Our imperfect laws and systems only improve when those who propose, write, interpret, and enforce them have stronger character, are stewardship-minded, and better match the community’s shade and hue. Until then, they will always skew in favor of the legacy colors. To that, I offer two recommendations.

One, remember the cause, not the symptoms. The symptoms are uncomfortable and dangerous; treating them can make you feel better without addressing the cause. Fix the cause. This applies to any dis-ease; medical, social, financial, or spiritual. Treat them, yes, but do not let the pains divert your attention from the root cause.

Two, revisit your founding documents: your purpose, mission, and values. Do any changes need to be made or modified given the new environment? If not, ensure the criteria you use to make decisions are well aligned.

I’ve dedicated myself to helping individuals and teams across various backgrounds to expand their horizons, embrace humility, and excel in management and leadership. Through numerous collaborations, I’ve witnessed remarkable transformations that have benefited my company and enhanced the achievements and reputation of my clients. It is time to better support those who often go unnoticed — the underappreciated individuals with untapped potential. Leadership isn’t confined to a select few; it thrives within individuals from diverse walks of life, brimming with ambition, moral integrity, empathy, and curiosity. Yet, systemic barriers, whether based on gender, race, or creed, often hinder their opportunities for advancement.

It’s crucial to recognize that these barriers aren’t excuses; they are entrenched societal challenges that demand our collective attention. Instead of just scratching the surface of change, we must commit ourselves to dismantling these barriers and promoting environments where everyone can thrive. In the ranks of the underappreciated and underserved, latent talent and innovation are waiting. Untethered, they will benefit us all.

We must do better. We know we can, but many of us refuse to do so because, for as much as we value declaring our freedom, we’ve grown bashful about accepting our responsibilities. Some in our political class consider it a weakness to take responsibility, apologize, or even recognize mistakes they’ve made. I have seen countless grown men cower over the prospect of being held accountable. Imagine the strength of the rare leader who chooses accountability and acts with a sense of stewardship, not tyranny.

I admit that I do not have the answers or possess all the qualities of a great leader; no one does, despite their claims. The best you can do is know your strengths and use them to the fullest of your ability. I’m not interested in working with organizations only looking to check the boxes so their quarterly action plans look complete. Improving employee engagement or customer loyalty metrics by minuscule percentage points does not create the kind of changes that merit the celebratory fanfare some feel they deserve. Instead, care about how people treat their team, vendors, and clients. I expect modern executives to have a servant-leader mentality, not a serve-me attitude, and executive teams to better reflect the community in which they operate.

If we define employee engagement as the active involvement and enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace, and research consistently demonstrates that highly engaged teams significantly outperform their counterparts in key business outcomes vital to organizational success, why do organizations often overlook strategies for improvement?

  • Short-Term Outlook: Too many organizations prioritize immediate financial gains over long-term investments in people, customers, and communities. Better engagement often requires time, and short-sighted organizations seldom think beyond the horizon.
  • Ignorance: Leaders unfamiliar with the positive impact of a highly engaged workforce often fail to perceive employee engagement as a strategic imperative. They mistakenly equate engagement with superficial perks like complimentary lunches or recreational amenities. Authentic engagement is more profound and emphasizes employee purpose, professional development, and a sense of worth.
  • Difficult to Measure: Gauging the efficacy of engagement initiatives takes time. The absence of clear-cut metrics often makes it difficult for unresponsive leaders to validate the investment.

Be creative and look for other avenues for improvement:

  • Tailor Career Advancement: Personalized training and growth pathways tailored to individual aspirations cultivate a sense of purpose, while uniform career trajectories breed disengagement.
  • Psychological Safety: Establish an environment where employees feel emboldened to voice ideas, take calculated risks, and admit missteps. Leaders who create open dialogue nurture trust and psychological safety.
  • Emphasize Meaningful Contributions: Employees yearn for meaningful work imbued with significance. Show employees how their roles align with the organization’s mission to help nurture a sense of purpose and ownership.
  • Recognition and Appreciation: Regular acknowledgment of employee accomplishments, regardless of magnitude, holds immense significance. Genuine expressions of gratitude done the right way sustain motivation and reinforce value.
  • Work-Life Harmony: Flexible work arrangements that respect the boundaries between professional and personal domains demonstrate your commitment to employee well-being and curb burnout.

Effective leaders know that any worthwhile engagement strategy is not a quick-fix solution. It requires an ongoing commitment to listening to employee feedback, adapting strategies, and building a culture of transparent communication and shared vision. This is not an arduous task if you enjoy leadership and the act of leading.

Like many of you, I am tired of old unresolved battles. I know policy and change is a game of inches, not miles. Like many of you, I don’t have much patience for that, but that is a hang-up we must resolve. I also grow tired of leaders who are not leading. There is so much talent in good people who are not stepping up to lead because they have yet to be invited. You don’t need permission to lead. I understand some feel they need to be called upon to lead in the traditional sense. And despite what some may say, you can not force someone who does not want to lead to lead. It only invites failure. To lead is to get things done with and through the efforts of other people. The extent to which they successfully achieve that objective determines their leadership capacity. For those who need to hear it, particularly the freelancers, independent business owners, the ambitious, and the inspired but unsure, listen to me: You Are a Leader. Act Like One.

For those unsure of where to begin, please review your answers to this questionnaire and then, if you feel compelled, schedule a call with me. I will give you a perspective you might have yet to consider, which may be enough. If you want more, we can discuss an ongoing agreement. We all can do better.

In the meantime, continue to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams and help others along the way.




Karl Bimshas

Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.