You might be asking: ‘Surely not everyone demonstrates leadership behaviour?”
To which we say: it might be a good time to redefine your definition of “leader”. When you stop thinking of leaders as people with “manager” or “director” in the title and start focusing on how every person in a business leads in some way, you’re setting yourself up for success. Some of your employees might not be directly managing people, but they still need to be leaders in the growth of the company.
Your entry-level employee is leading an important discussion between project collaborators, and in the other room, your executive is leading a meeting with key stakeholders. We tend to place an emphasis on developing leadership skills in the latter but what would happen if from day one leadership skills were taught across all levels of your business? Would you be creating a perfect storm of power-hungry players, or a healthy culture of trust, intuition, and investment?
Naturally, you’ll be developing leadership in your executives first but that shouldn’t be your only focus. Time and time again, the best leaders have guided those around them in the skills of leadership. This will never be a wasted task. Developing even the skills, if not the complete capability, of leadership will no doubt lead to further engagement & increased productivity. Invest in your people, and they will invest in you. While interest grows in the disassembling of traditional hierarchical structures in favour of single tier groups of employees to foster collaboration, this might not be the approach for you. Instead, we’re suggesting that you value everyone’s potential for leadership, through purposeful nurturing, from day one. A far less radical approach to creating shared vision and common purpose, but an approach that will definitely yield positive results at all levels of an organisation.
And what does this look like in practice?
Based on a tribal technique passed on by his father, Nelson Mandela always had the policy of allowing others to speak first. He would encourage people to speak and lead the conversations before introducing his own thoughts and ideas. How do you approach conversations in your business or team? Do you lead with your own agenda, plan, or ideas? Next time, whether it’s a board of executives or a lunchtime meeting, why not encourage others to lead the conversation. You’ll be setting them up for success as they grow in the confidence to lead with their ideas, stimulate innovation, and be a part of robust conversation,- and everyone will feel heard.
Ginni Rometty continues to successfully lead IBM; a company which has been widely praised for strategically developing leaders across all levels. Again, strategy looks great when up on a powerpoint presentation but it’s your employees who lead the way in making it happen. Developing your workforce leadership skills will result in an invested workforce. IBM’s leadership strategy is a good example of this as it focuses on global citizenship, collaboration, action-orientation, customer value, and innovation.
Leadership is a mentality rather than a job title, and when fostered at all levels of an organisation is a sure fire approach to growth, engagement, and success.