Leadership is not a new concept, but it is one that is constantly changing. And the faces of leadership are no exception. The problem with leadership as it stands today is that the word "leader" has become almost synonymous with politicians, public figures, or CEO's. When someone talks about leadership, the vast majority of people start picturing those faces. It teaches us that leadership comes with a certain privilege. That, until you reach that status level, you can't be considered in the leadership conversation.
Many of our organizations pride themselves on building cultures that promote leadership. It is often part of our mission or vision statements. Leadership has been put on display for every employee to see, in hopes that it digs in and takes roots deep within the companies fabric. And while this is good-intentioned, it is missing the mark. The buzz around leadership is just becoming noise. Employees are not buying it. We are smarter than that. You can't dangle the carrot and expect we will continue chasing it. Because remember, they don't believe that they have the status within your organization to become a leader....yet.
Companies need to understand that the balance is shifting. The advantage that employees have today more than ever is access. Every employee in every industry has unlimited access to resources. There is no barrier between where they are now, and where they could be aside from their own lack of curiosity, work ethic, or motivation. In other words, the only thing preventing them from exposing your lack of actual leadership within your organization is perhaps their current apathy. Seems like a dangerous spot to try and achieve success from doesn't it?
One of the greatest tools we have as humans is our awareness. If we are aware that our leadership strategy is really just a house of cards, then we can take the steps required to rebuild the foundation before it falls apart. There are 3 main steps that you need to start taking today.
Step 1 - Invest more in leadership training. Leadership is not the same as it was in the '80s. With each new generation entering the workforce, the dynamic of leadership needs to evolve in order to meet the needs of our employees. People spend a lot of time talking about how difficult Millenials are to manage. Perhaps they aren't the problem. Maybe it's time you look at the formula you are using and understand that what worked then, won't work now.
Don't reserve the training for the people with status. Include people from across all parts of your company. Managers are not the only employees who require leadership skills.
Training is important, but implementation is critical. Getting employees trained is only the battle, implementing what they have learned into the everyday activities of your company is the war.
Step 2 - Be vulnerable about your leadership strategy. For employees to listen, they first need to feel like they are heard. Too much of our corporate communication only flows one way. Make it an open dialogue. Ask for input and ideas before you start laying out your strategy.
Paint the picture of what you are trying to achieve. Be clear with what you want the outcome to be. You might not know exactly how you will get there just yet, but that is ok. The important part, in the beginning, is letting all of your employees in on what your vision of leadership within your organization looks like.
Create opportunities for engagement. If you expect employees to participate, you will need to open avenues for them to do so. Too often we think our employees will be comfortable sending us an email or speaking in a public forum to share their ideas. If you haven't built that foundation of trust with your employees yet, then they likely won't feel comfortable sharing ideas.
Step 3 - Make leadership a priority every day. Saying it is not doing it. We need leaders to lead by example. Remember the old adage "actions speak louder than words." Employees are going to judge you based on your daily activities, not by what you say in a town hall. Addressing a group of employees on a conference call or a state of the company address is only a moment in time. It is an opportunity for you to say all the right things, whether you mean it or not. Your employees will decide if they believe you based on what you say and do before and after those meetings.
Don't assume that you are smarter than your employees. Remember what we already said about the power of access. If you think you can get away with telling them what they want to hear without taking any meaningful action, you lose.
Make daily leadership activities mandatory for everybody. We have done a great job making safety a non-negotiable in the last number of years. It is time that we treat leadership with the same level of attention.
Every employee deserves to live and work in an environment that provides them with the necessary skills and resources required for success. As a leader, it is your responsibility to create that environment. In order to begin changing the faces of leadership to include more than just politicians or CEO's, we need to start including our employees in the conversation.
Want to learn more about how you can start making some changes? Check out our newly published course, Innovate Your Leadership. It takes an in-depth look at how you can begin creating the right environment for your employees and most importantly how implementing what you learn is the real end game. Enroll today and receive 20% off for a limited time only.