Leadership development isn’t just for those with the management and supervisory titles
At work, at home and in the community, situations occur every day that call out for some leadership. The more people who can stand up and lead in those defining moments, the better our world will run.
I talk about this idea of everyone being a leader a lot. In the world of organizations, I’ve become one of the few advocates for expanding leadership development to include all employees. We shouldn’t reserve leadership development only for the ones who are promoted into supervisory and management positions or those who have been anointed as a future “star.”
In the best run operations, offices, departments and businesses, you see hourly employees who have the trust of their peers frequently stand up and lead. In average to poorly run workplaces, you will notice a lack of hourly employees who stand up and lead when a situation calls for it.
Developing hourly employees as leaders isn’t on the leadership development radar screen
Those with the management titles can’t be everywhere all the time. The performance of their operations depends on the number of leaders within their hourly and non-management staff. Hourly employees acting as leaders seems to be something almost no one is talking about. Here is something that dramatically affects end results yet it appears to be totally off the radar screen.
In every speech I give before management groups, I ask how many of them have seen an hourly employee stand up and lead. Almost all of them acknowledge they have and also confirm it makes a difference in how well things run. So why aren’t we doing something about this? Why do we persist in treating leadership development as more of an elite activity for those with the titles and those who’ve been deemed to possess “special” potential?
Every employee a leader
When I was a warehouse worker, I remember the day when both the manager and assistant manager were suddenly called to a meeting. Shortly after they left, the functioning of the warehouse crew began to unravel. Things slowed down, errors skyrocketed, and it appeared the crew would not get all the orders picked and packed for shipment that day. Then Skip, one of the workers who everyone trusted, stepped up to the leadership plate and turned things around until they were humming once again.
As a former restaurant manager and hourly employee, I have seen this phenomena over and over. In fact, I can say without reservation that there is no way to consistently deliver excellent service and quality without hourly employees acting as leaders when those with the titles are elsewhere. As a manager, I made “every employee a leader” my personal goal because I knew it was the best way to boost performance.
Beyond best practices in leadership development
Now, decades later, this idea still hasn’t caught on. There are great leaders running business units who understand this and make it happen on their own watch. But it has never been widely incorporated into how an entire company approaches leadership development.
This is what I mean by “beyond best practices in leadership development.” We need to move beyond all the great things that are currently being done and finally go for the gold…develop every employee into a leader, not just the anointed ones.
This approach produces so many great benefits it still boggles my mind that it isn’t standard practice after all these years.
- If you have a lot of hourly employees who are acting as leaders, your service, quality, productivity and end results are consistently better.
- Because of this greater pool of leaders, you can now insure that only proven leaders are selected into management positions. Imagine what that will do to employee engagement, employee retention, how many employees say they work for a good boss, and, of course, the superior end results that flow from this.
- When employees know that only proven leaders get the management jobs, that motivates them to put more effort into developing their leadership capacity.
- With a deeper bench of leaders at all levels, the average performance of organizations will improve because this will raise the level of leadership effectiveness right up to the senior officer level.
- The consequence of all these effective leaders will be a dramatic drop in the number of bad bosses, workplace bullying, low employee engagement scores, high employee turnover, and all the poor results that flow from that.
- When we develop employees into leaders, that carries with them into their personal life. They become better parents and act as leaders in the community when a situation calls for it.
Just imagine how our world might be if every organization developed every employee into a leader. Just imagine.
Schedule a phone conversation with Don Shapiro, President of First Concepts Consultants, to answer your questions and explore how this discussion could help your organization.