How Connected Leadership Can Solve the Employee Engagement Crisis

Dan Nicholson

Connected leadership, an approach rooted in emotional intelligence, has become increasingly crucial in the contemporary workplace. This leadership style fosters a deep understanding and engagement between leaders and their teams, which is essential for nurturing a productive organizational culture. 

Defining Connected Leadership

Connected leadership is grounded in a strong understanding of human behavior. Berkeley Executive Education explains, “Connected leadership stems from self-awareness, empathy, and transparency—which enables an awareness of one’s emotions and those of others.” This leadership style emphasizes recognizing and understanding both one's own emotions and those of team members. Leaders who practice this approach are adept at reading subtle cues such as changes in body language or tone, which might indicate a team member's frustration or dissatisfaction. By valuing transparency and vulnerability, connected leaders can foster a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment.

The Impact on Organizational Culture

Why do leaders need to connect with everyone in their organization, now more than ever? Gallup recently reported that in 2023, only 33% of employees were engaged—that means two-thirds of the workforce were not fulfilling their potential. The report went on to say that “not engaged or actively disengaged employees account for approximately $1.9 trillion in lost productivity nationally.”

The influence of connected leadership extends beyond individual relationships to shape the entire organizational culture. It promotes an environment where open communication and collaboration are the norms. Connected leaders encourage honesty, integrity, and trust, essential components that contribute to a psychologically safe workplace where employees feel valued and free to express themselves. This environment supports creativity and innovation by allowing employees to propose new ideas without fear of criticism.

Moreover, connected leadership significantly impacts organizational culture by emphasizing the value of each team member not just as an employee but as a whole person. This holistic approach helps in building stronger, more personal connections between the team members, which can enhance collaboration and loyalty. Berkeley Executive Education explains, “When authenticity and trust are valued as core principles within a team, people are more likely to enjoy greater autonomy and feel secure in voicing concerns or objections without fear of reprisal,” thus producing a more dynamic and innovative workplace​​.

The Leadership Style for Today’s Business Culture

In today’s workplace, leadership extends beyond merely assigning tasks and demanding outcomes. It involves gaining a deep understanding of one’s own and others’ instincts, motivations, and behaviors. This insight allows leaders to cultivate a workplace culture that acknowledges these personal attributes and provides an atmosphere where everyone can thrive.

Leadership plays a critical role in the success of any company, regardless of its size. Modern organizations excel when they practice connected leadership, characterized by leaders who embrace vulnerability, show genuine concern for their team members, and foster a collaborative and innovative environment.

Connected leadership is a step toward creating companies where employees are engaged and committed to the common cause. If leaders show their team members that “their opinions matter, their voices are heard, and their contributions are valued,” writes Rebecca Wright for Harvard Business Review, “this gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility.” This makes the whole team work better together because each person feels valued for their work and as a person.

Connected leadership complements democratic and transformational leadership styles well, which focus on employee contributions and empowerment. These styles contrast sharply with autocratic approaches, which might inhibit the development of a true connection between leaders and their teams. Autocratic environments can make employees feel undervalued and less engaged, thus negatively impacting their performance and overall morale.

Steps to Becoming a Connected Leader

Intentional actions are necessary for those aspiring to adopt connected leadership. It begins with setting a clear intention to improve connection and actively devising strategies to achieve this goal. Regular one-on-one and group interactions help strengthen relationships, making employees feel heard and respected. Asking personal and work-related questions during these interactions can provide deeper insights into the individual aspirations and challenges faced by team members.

Senior Leadership Consultant Christopher Coultas advises that connected leaders focus on team energy to build stronger rapport. “Keep track of what inspires and drives the energy for people on your team. Some will get energized by collaborative work, others by detailed analysis, creative brainstorming, teaching others, and so on.” By asking questions about what people enjoy and gain energy from, you can be more connected to your team and help them be more productive.

Furthermore, leaders have to work on understanding their own emotions, personal strengths and weaknesses, and goals. Showing vulnerability and demonstrating empathy is crucial. These qualities show that leaders are approachable and relatable, which can significantly boost team cohesion and trust. Implementing such practices can transform a workplace, making it more inclusive and dynamic. 

Peter Boyd, CEO and professor of the Connected Leadership course at Yale University, outlines his path to becoming a more connected leader: “Establish a firm connection between your clearly articulated purpose, effective priorities, visualized potential for success, and pathway to maximized progress.” In this way, he says, you can tap into your ability to direct meaningful change for your team and your organization.


Connected leadership is an approach that aligns well with modern organizational needs. It not only enhances employee engagement and satisfaction but also drives performance by cultivating a supportive, open, and innovative workplace culture. As organizations continue to navigate the complexities of the modern business environment, embracing connected leadership could be the key to enduring success and resilience.


Berkeley Executive Education


Harvard Business Review

Connected Leadership 


Dan Nicholson is the author of “Rigging the Game: How to Achieve Financial Certainty, Navigate Risk and Make Money on Your Own Terms,” deemed a best-seller by USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to founding the award-winning accounting and financial consulting firm Nth Degree CPAs, Dan has created and run multiple small businesses, including Certainty U and the Certified Certainty Advisor program.

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