The importance of leadership across the organization is no longer the a diatribe of employee engagement. While serving customers, engaging employees and controlling costs are important, companies now must embed the organization with innovative self empowered employees at all levels. Why?
The world has become uncertain. Where sustainable advantages are now mythical companies have to be adaptive and aggressive more than ever. That requires leadership without titles. Sally Helgesen is an author of The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work posits that leadership is now the expectation of everyone. Note she doesn’t suggest management.
The Army’s recognition of the need for disseminated leadership showed up a few years ago when it put its operations manuals online and invited soldiers to wiki in their edits. Field participants weighed in on everything from setting up supply lines and placing artillery to evacuating casualties and supporting convoys. The Army required no official approval before publishing the edits, which kicked up quite a controversy, though Stars and Stripes later reported that no superfluous entries had been posted. Engaging the troops not only elicited a wealth of fresh ideas, it also sent a clear message that real-time innovations in the field had strategic as well as tactical value.
Good organizations are following a similar path, authorizing frontline people to make decisions that directly affect customer experience and giving operational teams leeway to make process improvements. The level of autonomy granted can sometimes be startling, as the public routinely learns when a big trade in a financial firm goes wrong: “A 26-year-old bet how much against the euro?”
The consequence of this emphasis on rank-and-file decision making is that employers are increasingly on the lookout for people ready to assume a leadership stance from the get-go. For example, a recent survey conducted by Hart Associates for the American Association of Colleges and Universities found that 93 percent of employers who hired college graduates not only placed top priority on skills such as critical thinking, the ability to communicate, and the capacity to make complex decisions, but also believed these capabilities were more important than students’ majors or grades. Nine in 10 reported hiring based on ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity to engage in continual new learning.
Every one of these skills is rooted in and reflects leadership ability, which means that employers today are basically looking to hire leaders—not necessarily leaders who will start competing to become CEO, but leaders who can guide teams, help innovate solutions, and make smart and ethical decisions when the situation demands it. This is why it’s disheartening to hear a student say he or she doesn’t “want to be a leader.” It’s like articulating a desire not to compete for a good job.
To combat this mismatch, all of us need to spread the word that leadership no longer equates with positional power.
If your board of directors are doing there jobs, and you are doing your job there will be a shake up before it has to be ordained from on high: The almighty customer. If you’d like me to visit your firm and pick my brain on how to improve your bottom-line click here. The link will take you to my contact page on my website. Thank you. Jim
Jim Woods is a leadership development and training consultant deploying his unique abilities in character based training and strategy.
Jim is president of InnoThink Group a human resources and leadership management consulting firm | Skype ID – jim.woods79 http://www.innothinkgroup.com Click here to schedule an appointment.m. He has an absolute passion for people development and are constantly refining and adapting his programs in order to ensure that they have the maximum impact on those we serve.