LEADING FROM EVERY SEAT
When the topic of leadership comes up, it is a rare occasion that “leadership” isn’t identified as the CEO or COO (or insert any C-Suite title here). Let’s not leave out those holding titles at the director and manager level, and even those front-line supervisors are included. Anyone, really, that is on the organizational chart with a “lead” title on up. You know who usually isn’t identified? Pretty much everyone else.
Shouldn’t we adopt a practice of developing all employees in leadership, whether they have a title or not? Have you even considered the impact that would make on meeting the goals of the organization? What level of customer service do you think your company deliver? Would your team have less conflict and more cohesion? How would a company full of leaders impact production? So many questions could be added here!
More often than not, the general perception is leaders take on the responsibility of (and are held accountable to) meeting the goals of the organization while employees come in and do whatever their job description states (*and other duties as assigned), and at quitting time those employees head home without a worry. It’s time to press the reset button and start spreading some of this leadership thing around the entire organization.
LOOK AT IT THIS WAY
Formal leaders are responsible for making decisions that consider the interests of the stakeholders (shareholders, employees, clients/customers, suppliers, the community, the environment…..). What if everyone has a mindset of making decisions that consider the interests of the stakeholders? Could the secretary of a fire department give a tour to the local boy scouts troop because the firefighters are out on a call? Absolutely. Does that promote customer service and community mindedness? You bet it does. Can the accounting clerk explain the budget process to a frustrated employee in the marketing department, so the marketing campaign can be put together successfully?
When an employee returns from an outside training, wouldn’t it make sense for them to share their new skills with the team? Everyone could grow from the opportunity, and by the employee sharing their growth they are at the same time reinforcing their new skills as well. Win/win
Think of a camera lens. Zooming out and seeing the big picture is a responsibility given to top level leadership. They look big picture and answer the “what next” question. To accomplish the “what next,” leadership relies on employees to deliver by zooming in on the detail and come up with a “how to”. Who better to instill the practice of zooming out than the people who are actually coming up with the “how to”? They’ve already mastered zooming in and they are in the best position to know what isn’t possible, what is possible, and how to get the project to the finish line. Their ability to both zoom in and zoom out gives them the power to see where they are now, what’s better and how do we get there? Seeking out and trusting their input places you in the best position of organizational growth, and frees up top leadership to focus on the next “what next.”
One of the most frequent (good-intentioned) lies we hear in our classes is that when a goal is set “it will get done.” They even create an action plan in class! Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” After nearly 20 years of providing leadership development, I would respectfully disagree with that statement. Everyone in our classes hears, repeatedly, “what will set you apart from everyone else is doing what you say you will do, and finish what you start.” Two things. So, when they come to class after having set a goal and created an action plan and accomplished that task, they have set themselves apart. For those that haven’t quite accomplished their task, they are instructed to tweak their plan and continue working toward accomplishment. Leaders are expected to finish what they start, follow-through on tasks, and honor commitments. Every person in the organization should be held to those leadership standards.
Accountability is high on the list of responsibilities a leader has to fulfill. What if everyone in the organization held each other accountable to the standards of the job? To the mission of the organization? Imagine the culture you would create!
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU
The point I’m making is, don’t reserve leadership responsibilities to leadership. If you want to create an organization that is known for being the best of the best, the place everyone wants to work, and the product/service everyone wants, then develop leadership into each and every employee in each and every department. Expect leaders in every seat of the organization. Your recruitment and retention will thank you. Your customers and employees will thank you. And, your bottom line will thank you!