Organizations tend to make a heavy investment in developing leaders as individuals rise to the senior ranks. Often they also identify a few high-potential people in the lower ranks and groom them for leadership. It's easy to see why you would invest in building leadership capability in these high-caliber individuals.
But what about everyone else?
There are middle managers and staff at every level who have the essential skills your organization needs to succeed. These are the people you depend on day in and day out to crank out the work. They may not stand out as the leaders of the future, but they certainly matter, and you count on them.
You can view them as followers, or you can take the view that leadership capability doesn't just reside in a few select individuals. In fact, while not everyone will assume a position of leadership, I'd suggest that anyone can lead.
You don't have to be THE leader to be A leader.
What does a “culture of leadership” actually mean?
If you're committed to empowering people to work independently and own their results, one of the most effective ways to do that is to develop a culture of leadership rather than just a few highly capable leaders.
It means that individuals at every level and in every role are empowered to speak up, step up and stand up in service of both the future of your organization and what matters most to them.
What does this require of you as a leader?
- Ask tough questions and engage in the dialog right
along with others so they can not only engage with you but understand how you
think and vice versa.
- Do this and everyone involved with learn and grow.
- Listen in a way
that has people know it's safe to speak up, even when what they have to say is counter
to the culture, hard to hear, or points to a problem or issue that must be
addressed to ensure success.
- Do this and people will have the courage to say what you need to hear when it matters most.
- Invite people to step up to take on new
challenges and support them in being successful.
- Do this and those same people will have the courage to offer to step up and out of their comfort zones to take on something else that makes a difference.
- Encourage people to take a stand for an opportunity
or a possibility that challenges the status quo and be there to support them
when the culture inevitably pushes back.
- Do this and you will cultivate agents of change who'll provide every day leadership in places and with people you alone cannot affect.
Do these things and you may be surprised by who actually shows up as a leader.
In fact, when you begin to witness surprising acts of leadership, or even unsung heroes in action, you'll know you're cultivating a culture of leadership.
Your Turn: What other strategies can you offer for cultivating a culture of leadership?