Your leadership and vision got your company off the ground. But to continue to grow and achieve your goals, others need to take on the leadership mantle at some point. A study conducted by the Hay Group, a global management consulting firm, earlier this year on what companies have the best leadership indicated that 100 percent of the best companies let all employees behave like leaders.
Whatever stage of growth your small business is in today and regardless of how big you plan to get, you prepare your company for the future when you create a culture of leadership within your organization. You also prepare yourself for situations – customer, partnership, expansion to a new geography — that will require someone within your organization to take on a leadership role not just more work.
Building a culture of leadership involves encouraging and creating opportunities for members of your team to lead when they need to. The Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA) at Harvard Graduate School of Business is a collaborative learning community of business leaders and Harvard researchers. In “Developing leaders and leadership in organizations,” LILA member participants, who include representatives from government organizations such as the World Bank and global corporations like Cisco, offer their input on what it takes to develop leadership in an organization. Among their recommendations, they suggest:
Focus on developing leadership, not individual leaders: Your goal is not to identify certain individuals to ‘train’ to become leaders in your image but rather to cultivate core competencies within each of your team members that allow their leadership talents and contributions to emerge. Such core competencies include: humility, empathy, curiosity, listening, hearing and patience. When you create such an environment, you enable people to lead when you need them to.
Distribute leadership responsibility throughout the organization: Encourage everyone to exercise leadership from time to time when situations arise that leverage their particular knowledge and skills. In this way, people are encouraged to think of themselves as both leaders and followers depending on the circumstance. Since your work force can be anywhere these days, you even can empower remote workers to lead from afar.
Develop leaders primarily through work, not training: Encourage your team to learn from real world situations and challenges presented from their jobs and not just through leadership training.
I would add to these recommendations, learn to embrace dissent and healthy discussion. When you enable an environment in which your team can challenge the status quo, they will learn and grow and have the confidence to lead when presented with the challenge.