Make Everybody Think He or She is a Leader

Dec 06, 2018

A leader's job is not to do the work for others, it's to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible. — Simon Sinek, British-American author and organisational consultant.

Leadership has been intensively studied by academicians. Classical theorists have presented the picture of a leader as someone who single-handedly braves all challenges and guides a team towards victory.

Leaders were required to be authoritarian, domineering, and demanding. They were required to ensure unquestioning obedience and coerce people to achieve outstanding results.

The above image of a leader might have served well in the past, but it's no longer valid today.

Due to ever-increasing competition from all fronts —local and abroad —a leader cannot rely on tried and tested formulas for success.

Today, a leader must be a coach and a trainer, rather than a manager and a boss. A leader must know how to improve team morale and guide them towards achieving greatness.

In other words, today a leader must be willing to let everyone become a leader.

Transcending Traditional Roles

Leaders are presumed to be the only ones who can create the spark required to achieve outstanding results. It is believed that success comes through a stroke of genius of one individual — the leader. This is true in most corporate environments.

Yet, the belief that only a leader has the capability to make an organisation successful is not just outdated but downright disastrous for a firm.

According to Paul Sloane, the author of The Leader's Guide to Lateral Thinking, a great leader is one who can turn their team into a group of entrepreneurs who crave new opportunities. He says that a leader today must empower employees to achieve goals through their own ideas and efforts.

Effective leadership is all about empowerment or letting everybody think that he or she is a leader.

Empowerment is essential today where the life of a corporation continues to shrink. This is essential to survive in the present highly competitive corporate environment.

Companies today need to avoid the traditional hierarchical structure that does nothing but impede progress. Instead, they need to create a flat hierarchy with decentralised authority.

A company does need a vision and direction to succeed. But that vision and direction should be developed through cooperation and discussion with the team.

Breakthrough ideas do not just come from individuals at the upper-management levels. Instead, it can also come from the staff. The right type of leadership fosters an environment that makes this possible.

How to Create an Environment Where Everybody is a Leader?

Several successful companies have relied on visions of their staff for breakthrough projects. Not many people know of the AT&T Foundry innovation centres which were to foster a collaborative environment for developing cutting-edge ideas.

The Foundry serves as an incubation center where employees are given the chance to experiment with new ideas and pitch them to executives. One successful product of the Foundry is 'Cascade' for cars, which allows users to communicate with other connected car users.

Ericsson Ideaboxes, which was introduced in 2008, is another great example of empowering employees to develop their visionary ideas. The program has evolved over the years, allowing employees to get internal funding for their innovative ideas.

LinkedIn's Incubator is yet another example where employees are encouraged to pitch ideas to the executive team. If the idea is accepted, they are given up to three months to turn the idea into an actual service or product. The aim of the incubator is to let employees come up with ideas and allow them to turn their vision into reality.

Amazon also encourages employees to share their vision through the internal virtual idea box. This was how the company was able to come up with a highly successful idea for its Prime program.

Not many in Britain know that the UK Department of Works & Pensions (DWP) use a gamification technique to encourage employees to come up with innovative ideas. They receive points for making suggestions to improve their services. Those whose ideas are accepted receive more points.

From the above, it can be concluded that successful companies consider employees their most valuable leadership resource. They are not just viewed as simply ‘workers’. Everyone is considered a potential leader and provided the opportunity to develop innovative products or services.

Employees are often the best source of innovation. Your goal as an executive is to make everyone think of themselves as an entrepreneur in order to seize opportunities. It's about encouraging your staff to think and come up with breakthrough solutions.

Here are some tips that can help you to create an empowerment environment within an organisation where everyone thinks that he or she is a leader.

1. Effective Communication

Communication is the key to gaining trust and encouraging employees to come up with great ideas. Executives need to ensure that there is a clear line of connection between the staff and the upper management.

The communication with employees should be two-way with a focus on getting feedback. Yet, in most organisations, communication is generally a one-way dialogue in which they are given feedback. This prevents employee empowerment and keeps the organisation in the same path that ultimately leads to failure.

Consider purchasing a professional communication software to keep a record of employee suggestions. The management can overview the suggestions and focus on the ones that have potential for success.

2. Treat Every Employee with Respect

In order to encourage employees to share ideas and offer solutions, it's critical that executives treat each employee with respect.

Regularly communicate with employees about how the management values employee contribution. This is a great way to improve the morale of employees and make them feel that they matter to the company. A simple act of appreciation can go a long way in ensuring that employees feel respected and appreciated.

3. Focus on Employee Engagement

When carrying out any project, executives need to focus on employee engagement. The employees should not just be delegated tasks. Instead, it's important to involve them during the decision making process.

The importance of employee engagement was emphasised by management expert Peter Drucker in his book The Practice of Management written in 1954. Drucker has coined the term Management by Objectives and Self Control whereby an executive should set goals after consulting with employees.

Management by objectives is more effective than simply dictating employees to complete the tasks.

Both the executives and employees know exactly what is expected to remove any confusion. Moreover, since employees work with the manager in setting goals, they are more eager to achieve the goal.

Another critical importance of the management by objective approach is that employees become aware of how their work affects the overall company's goals. They realise that their own welfare is connected with the welfare of the company. As a result, they are more likely to contribute their fullest to achieving the goals.

The approach makes employees feel like they are the manager of their own work. The goals are set after an agreement between the management and the employee. As a result, employee appraisals can be more equitable and objective.

4. Encourage Collaboration between Team Members

A critical component of staff empowerment is effective team building. As an executive, you need to create an environment where team members can easily communicate with each other and build rapport.

Activities like group events, games, fitness sessions, or training sessions are a great way to get the team together.Consider setting team goals to promote collaboration between your team. Organise brainstorming sessions where the team should be asked to share ideas to improve the processes.

You can also use technology to improve collaboration between the team. Consider using collaborative software such as CometChat, Confluence, IBM Connections, Podio, or Evernote to let your employees interact with each other and share ideas.

Organisational executives should lead by example by communicating with their employees. They should encourage employees to share ideas and make change possible. Collaboration activities can be scheduled monthly, weekly, or even daily.

The main idea of increased collaboration is to let employees develop the confidence to share their ideas more openly. It ensures that everyone contributes by sharing ideas, giving feedback, and pointing to opportunities or issues.

5. Avoid Hovering Supervision

The one thing that is against an empowered work environment is hovering supervision.

Hovering supervision is a damaging leadership style where employees are controlled through closed supervision. The management monitors each and every move of employees. This makes employees feel constrained and even somewhat imprisoned in a toxic workplace environment.

Micromanagement is a destructive habit that eventually leads to a loss of trust.

When you micromanage your employees, they will become dependent on you. They won't develop the confidence to take initiative and generate new ideas.

Yet another great danger of micromanagement is that it leads to a high staff turnover. Employees feel tense when they feel that their work is being closely monitored. Close supervision is not worth it, in the end, considering the fact that high turnover is costly for the company.

Instead of micromanaging, you should give flexibility to your employees in completing their assigned tasks. You need to trust them by giving them freedom to complete the tasks within the specified time.

6. Become a Change Agent

Changing the traditional way of doing things requires a radical shift in mindset. It requires becoming an enabler by taking charge of the change. You need to embrace the role of a change agent to encourage constructive disruption within the organisation.

In short, executives need to create an environment where employees have the freedom to demonstrate flexibility in doing their work. They should be given the opportunity to work in cross-departmental teams to broaden their experience and get to know about the overall processes.

Empowering employees means trusting them and providing them support to achieve extraordinary results.

Executives today need to realise that leadership is not just setting goals and expecting people to achieve them. Modern leadership requires that employees are encouraged to discuss issues, offer solutions, and meet customer needs in the best possible manner.

In an empowered organisation, everyone is treated as if he or she is the leader of the company. The staff is provided the resources required to generate ideas and also put them into action. Problems in such an organisation are shared with the staff who are given the authority to take initiative to solve issues.

Employees don't make a decision in isolation. They are very much connected with the problem. As a result, they are able to come up with great ideas that are effective in dealing with the problem.

Final Remarks

The fact is human resource is the most valuable asset of a company. It's up to the leadership to decide whether they want to use the golden resource to achieve extraordinary results, or to ignore them and accept the inevitable failure.

Executives need to radically change the view about leadership.

The traditional approach to leadership is no longer valid today. They need to create a highly energised and empowered group of people who search for better ways to do things. In other words, executives need to think of their staff as entrepreneurs instead of just someone who carries on tasks. This is the only way for corporations in the UK to survive in the increasingly challenging business environment, particularly after the Brexit when Britons have to rely on no one but themselves to prosper and thrive.

Jefferson Maguire is a premier executive search company in the UK. We help companies find and attract the best talent for executive positions. For more information about our full-service executive headhunting services, you can contact us by dialling 01329 288 688.


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