How to cultivate leadership thinking at all levels

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Date: 17 March 2022

New businesses are launching every day in every industry, creating more and more competition. Owners must become leaders. Leaders must become listeners. Those in power must distribute that power. Workers must unite to form strategies, and strategies must serve to unite workers. A company's structure must empower its employees to contribute as if they are leaders.

Read on as we explore ways to cultivate leadership thinking at all levels.

Developing a sense of purpose

Having a corporate mission and getting buy-in from employees are two very different things. Simply stating a business purpose does not mean that there is a collective ambition to drive towards it - that feeling and effort must be nurtured.

So, how?

Throughout the business there need to be reminders of the business' core purpose and values, whether through communications, workshops, the actions of leaders, celebrations of mission-related victories, or internal incentives. It must be felt that the purpose is not an afterthought.

Those who start to buy into the purpose start to become more creative, more involved, more motivated, and braver. If these changes are acknowledged, it's even better, serving to generate further motivation and connection to the mission.

Flatten the hierarchy

If your title and job description do not say that you are a leader, you will naturally be more inclined to follow. For some, it's a money factor, for others, it's confidence. Some just don't know where to start having an input or worry that they will be chastised for speaking out of rank.

Those higher up the hierarchy have the responsibility to try and flatten the pyramid, asking for opinions and crediting them, getting to know those at the bottom and welcoming their feedback.

It's easy to forget that those seemingly at the foot of the hierarchy are also talented, important, and valuable individuals full of potential. They could be the leaders your business needs, if only they are given a chance. Their potential must be recognised and acknowledged.

Jean-Michel Chopin, Managing Director at StratX ExL, mentioned in their Transformative Leadership report, "The world is becoming more complex...You have to give people the leeway to decide and act with the customer."

Nurturing trust regardless of rank and self-belief often needs to be inspired in those who are yet to reach a leadership rank. They might not know that they could be a great leader because they don't feel that they are yet trusted to make important decisions. A natural leader trusts their instincts, but a leader can be developed by being given trust. It's a two-way street.

Creating an environment that empowers people to use their talents and trust their decisions firmly will unlock so much unmastered potential. 

Creating temporary opportunities for possible leaders to shine

A leader only needs to use their skills when the opportunity arises. Sometimes, a leader doesn't need to be 'on' 24/7 but rather shows up when it matters most. A cultural shift whereby temporary leadership opportunities are given, such as on projects and teams, can be very important towards discovering the undiscovered leaders waiting in the ranks.

A leader can also be born by giving them more autonomy over parts of their job and their responsibilities, it's that simple. From the perspective of a leader, giving these opportunities to help develop new leaders and their skill sets also gives more choice about who can handle delegated work and will be emboldened by further chances to shine.

Many rising leaders will grab at the chance to show what they're made of, but it's the responsibility of the existing leaders to cultivate a company culture that presents these opportunities.

Tip: Don't forget to praise and give feedback to those who do grab the bull by the horns.

Promote innovative thinking and delivery

Leaders lead, employees follow. At least, that's the traditional thinking that stifles creativity and innovation. Be the kind of leader that is not afraid of the new and ready to welcome solution-centric voices, and you will soon see employees find their voices.

Charlie from Minty Digital says, "Traditional companies' structures are dead. Teams are now encouraging staff to manage their own tasks and timelines in order to deliver what they think is best for the projects that they are working on."

This kind of cultural shift is so astronomically beneficial to your business. All great innovation comes from unconventional idea generation and presenting the need for solutions rather than unloading the burdens of problems. 

Encourage lifelong learning and self-study

As we've said, some leaders are born, and some are made. Self-study, mindfulness, feedback, self-reflection, and continued professional development can all subconsciously help regular employees to see themselves as a leader.

An organisation needs to open their eyes and see which employees are taking the initiative and nurture their progress with encouragement and praise for their strengths, and constructive ideas for their weaknesses.

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young" - Henry Ford.

The final say on leadership cultivation

There are so many things to be said; we've just scratched the surface here. We've yet to explore the benefits of open dialogues, goal manifestation, value-setting, growth mindsets, accountability, integrity, and more.

The overall message of the themes we have explored is that it's a combination of three things - leaders inspiring employees to become leaders themselves, creating an environment that empowers potential leaders, and nurturing those who display the right skills. Tick these three boxes and great change is on the horizon. 

Copyright 2022. Article was made possible by site supporter Minty Digital.

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