For decades now, studies have shown that the majority of employees continue to be disengaged in their work--roughly 70 percent here in the U.S.

We've also heard that familiar tune that "people leave managers, not companies." Yet so many companies can't seem to solve their own internal leadership crises that often results in unhappy, disengaged, and unmotivated workers.

The reason is that most people in senior management roles haven't grasped a clear understanding of what it takes to influence and lead other human beings. Fact is, you don't manage people; you lead people and manage the work.

The biggest mistake leaders still make.

In the age of Covid, mandates, loss of individual freedoms, and fear and uncertainty permeating daily life, leaders must face some brutal truths about what it takes to motivate and inspire on a human, emotional, and psychological level. 

The first leadership lesson they need to learn, to set themselves and others up for success, is that human beings can't perform at their best in fear-based, pressure cookers. 

In traditional top-down power structures, fear is par for the course as the primary motivator. In today's social economy driven by employees, the best leaders pump fear from the atmosphere and create psychological safety among their tribes.

Research on psychological safety shows that when leaders foster a culture of safety, it leads to better performance outcomes. When psychological safety is absent, fear is present. And fear is detrimental to achieving a company's full potential. 

Plain and simple, the effects of psychological safety are enormous and immediate. It liberates people to freely collaborate, innovate, and engage.

Yet these things don't happen in a vacuum. Releasing psychological safety and crushing fear in the process requires modeling the behaviors that foster trust between people. 

If you want to elevate your leadership skills to meet the shifting demands of workers in the Great Resignation, trust is a pillar your leadership should stand on. Here are three ways to develop a growth mindset and create more trust with your people:

1. Be willing to listen to feedback.

Many leaders choose to cut themselves off from listening, growing, and developing self-awareness--for fear of what they'll hear. It's extremely hard being exposed to ideas, opinions, and constructive feedback from others when you've been operating in an ego system for so long. On the other hand, leaders who actively listen to various perspectives are the ones who are open, humble, and accountable. They find the facts in order to respond appropriately to serve the needs of others. 

2. Put your employees first.

Speaking of serving the needs of others, every leader's role should be about serving the employees--those who are closest to the customer experience--first. Great leaders realize that their No. 1 customer is their employees. If they take care of their people, train them, and empower them, those people will become fully engaged in what they do. In turn, they will reach out and take care of their second most important customer: The people who buy their products or services.

3. Bring your humanity to the workplace.

The pandemic has shifted leaders to embrace vulnerability and showcase a new level of humanity in the workforce. Many leaders now, including several that I coach, have embraced this shift to being more real about sharing personal and mental health struggles, and organizational challenges that may affect workers. In the past, it was much more convenient to sweep things under the rug and not speak the full truth on business matters.

Things are different now. Leaders see the advantage that comes from being transparent in the face of adversity; they are dropping their masks to ask for help--even from their own employees--to cope with their own uncertainties. By modeling more humanity and the full array of emotions that are often compartmentalized, leaders are now fostering the environment for teams to follow suit--and together working toward creative solutions more effectively and efficiently.

What workers are looking for these days is a fully accessible human being as a leader, the kind that does all the three things listed above. One silver lining from this pandemic is that it created a crash course on how authenticity, empathy, and compassion have become guiding principles to leading people exceptionally well. This has also helped leaders to recognize the full impact these essential skills ("soft skills") have on creating business value and delivering results.