When you’re at work, do you behave in the same way as you do when you’re at home? Or do you have a work persona – a duller, more subdued version of your real self? Of course there are certain behaviours, such as swearing, or nudity, for example, that aren’t acceptable in any workplace, but having a toned down version of yourself could be no good for you or your company. “Zombies”, is how Elisa Steele, chief executive of tech firm Jive Software refers to such people. She says that companies that don’t try to encourage staff to express themselves at work, and instead try to force them to fit into some kind of corporate clone – doing what they’re told to do without questioning – will lose out. Staff literally won’t want to stay, and as a result turnover will be high, says Ms Steele. At Jive, the firm uses its own software, which aims to improve the way employees communicate and collaborate on projects internally, to help new staff settle in and feel more at home quickly. “They feel the culture because they have complete access to the whole company the first day they start,” says Ms Steele. “What are people doing? How is corporate communicating? What’s the CEO up to today? What projects are prioritised?” After their first week, the new joiners are required to write a blog on how they’ve found it so far, an article that all staff can then read. “Time and time again we hear… ‘I know so much more about this company in a week – and our customers – than I knew at my other company, you know, in three months’,” she says. As far as Ms Steele is concerned, enabling staff to have close access to herself and what she’s doing day to day means they’ve got a good understanding of what the firm itself is aiming to do, and she says this information helps them feel more connected. “Those two connections make the work really matter, and then people are engaged, and then drive a more efficient and more productive workforce,” she says. Ms Steele’s approach is not that unusual for a tech start-up, which tend to shy away from a defined hierarchy. Arguably, it’s also a leadership style that works well in smaller firms, but would be harder for a large company to emulate. Yet increasingly research suggests that a leader who is closer to their staff, acting more like a mentor than a dictator, is the best way to get results. “For a long time, the accepted wisdom has been that the CEO controlled everything in the company. The organisation served them, not the other way around,” says chief executive coach and author Steve Tappin. “Today, that’s all changed. Good bosses are learning to support those around them.” It marks a start contrast to the stereotypical image of a distant and dictatorial chief executive.