Driving Employee Engagement Through Impactful Leadership: 6 Proven Strategies and Best Practices

When it comes to employee engagement, a successful initiative includes many intangible but concrete factors, with leadership at its core. Good leaders create a culture where employees feel valued, motivated, and engaged with their work.

Leaders are really the linchpin of employee engagement. How? Their actions, behaviors, and attitudes set the organizational tone, influencing the overall work environment. Research consistently shows that engaged employees are more productive, innovative, and loyal. A Gallup study revealed that companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share, underscoring the tangible benefits of a committed and motivated team.

This article looks into how strong leadership can drive employee engagement and offers practical strategies for leaders to use in their organizations.

1. Building Trust Through Relatable Leadership

Psychologists Kim Peters and Alex Haslam, in their study “I Follow, Therefore I Lead,” found that leaders who actively participate alongside their teams earn more trust and respect. Leaders who see themselves as part of the team, rather than above it, foster a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect. This participative approach, where leaders roll up their sleeves and work alongside their team members, creates a collaborative and trusting environment.

Key Strategies:

  • Lead by Example: Demonstrate the behaviors and work ethic you expect from your team. When leaders show commitment and integrity, it sets a powerful example for employees to follow.
  • Be Accessible: Make yourself available to your team. Open-door policies and regular check-ins can help build trust and open lines of communication.

2. Purpose-Driven Leadership

A sense of purpose in work is a significant driver of employee engagement. However, only 22% of employees feel that their leaders clearly outline the organization’s direction. According to McKinsey, “centered leadership” is a powerful approach that can enhance engagement. Centered leadership involves finding meaning in work, fostering a positive environment, and inspiring change through confident, positive actions.

Key Strategies:

  • Communicate Vision and Goals: Regularly share the organization’s vision and how each team member’s work contributes to the bigger picture. This helps employees understand their role in the organization’s success.
  • Encourage Personal and Professional Growth: Provide opportunities for employees to develop their skills and advance their careers. This not only boosts engagement but also fosters loyalty and retention.

3. The Power of Servant Leadership

One of the top factors driving engagement is the perception that leaders genuinely care about their employees. However, only 28% of employees believe their leaders are genuinely concerned about their well-being. Servant leadership, where leaders prioritize the needs of their team members before their own, can significantly enhance employee engagement. This leadership style emphasizes empathy, listening, and support.

Key Strategies:

  • Prioritize Employee Well-Being: Implement policies and practices that support work-life balance, mental health, and overall well-being.
  • Foster a Supportive Environment: Encourage a culture where employees feel safe to express their concerns and ideas. Actively listen and respond to their needs.

4. Empathy in Management

Empathy is a crucial component of effective leadership. According to a McKinsey study, 89% of employees are more engaged when their leaders show genuine empathy. However, 52% of employees believe that this empathy is not authentic. Leaders who demonstrate real empathy can create a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

Key Strategies:

  • Practice Active Listening: Show that you value your employees’ perspectives by listening attentively and responding thoughtfully.
  • Show Genuine Concern: Take an interest in your employees’ personal and professional lives. Celebrate their successes and support them through challenges.

5. The Importance of Recognition

Recognition is a powerful tool for boosting employee engagement. Acknowledging and appreciating employees’ efforts can increase engagement by up to 40%. However, over 80% of employees feel they do not receive enough recognition at work. Leaders who make a habit of recognizing their team’s contributions can foster a more motivated and engaged workforce.

Key Strategies:

  • Implement Regular Recognition Programs: Create formal and informal ways to acknowledge employees’ hard work and achievements.
  • Personalize Recognition: Tailor your recognition to individual preferences. Some may appreciate public acknowledgment, while others may prefer a private note of thanks.

6. Bridging the Perception Gap

There is often a gap between what leaders believe about employee engagement and what employees actually experience. This is where HR can play a crucial role. By building a solid business case for engagement initiatives, HR can help leaders understand the importance of their active participation in fostering an engaged workforce.

Key Strategies:

  • Gather and Share Feedback: Regularly collect feedback from employees about their engagement levels and share these insights with leadership.
  • Develop Engagement Plans: Work with leaders to create and implement engagement plans that address the specific needs and concerns of their teams.


As organizations strive for success, the role of impactful leadership in enhancing employee engagement cannot be overstated. Leaders who invest in these strategies will not only improve engagement but also drive their organizations toward greater achievements.

Mariam Mushtaq

I'm a Content Writer at Springworks. Drawing from my early career experience in HR, I bring a unique, insider's perspective. Driven by a passion for the People and HR function, I research and write about topics such as employee engagement and the future of work.

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