The Democratization of Leadership

Today our people have the opportunity to shine as leaders earlier in their careers than any other time in history.

When the discussion around leadership was confined to the executive suite, it was easier to talk about. Much as it has been welcome, however, the democratization of leadership has created confusion because of people’s perceptions of what leadership means.

Leadership is a mindset. It is an attitude that you are in charge of and responsible for your professional domain.

Simply put, an employee of any rank can demonstrate and embody leadership characteristics.

Instilling leadership as a core value in your organization is a great goal if it fits organically and consistently with your other organizational values. A corporate culture where leadership attributes are encouraged and embraced is an attractive one for its stakeholders.

How you integrate leadership as a core value is the question. Consider the following:

  • Does your executive team enthusiastically support the idea of making leadership a core value?
  • Do you provide the appropriate level of support to your executives who may need development in some key leadership attributes? For example, a brilliant C-level executive who has lousy interpersonal skills will likely need to master several competencies to offset this weakness.
  • Is your leadership initiative supported at all levels of management in your firm? What strategies do you have for overcoming the objections of the cynics or naysayers?
  • Do you put your people through leadership development training as a “one-size-fits-all” solution? Or do you recognize the differences among your stakeholders?
  • Do you provide appropriate training for your managers, who also need to understand the specific dynamics of management as well as leadership?
  • How do you support the training once it is completed? What guidance do you give your people so that they can “wear” their leadership identity in a way that is consistent with your values and culture?
  • How do you reinforce the process of leadership development? What do you do to make your people accountable to continue to develop in this area? Leadership can be taught, but the act of becoming a leader (or a better leader) takes experience.

Not everyone can be in charge of a company. But leadership development provides a venue through which anyone can feel self-empowered by “owning” the accountabilities and responsibilities of his or her domain.

Leadership development can develop self-confidence, which will result in immediate and tangible performance improvement. The act of self-management creates more responsible and accountable people. Again, results will appear once people feel enrolled in the process.

Although leadership can be perceived as one of the “softer” areas for employee development, you can quantify the results if you’re clear on the attributes you want to improve.

To do this, you need to start with the end in mind, and identify specific outcomes which can be measured over time. You need to begin with a baseline of data, so that you can identify progress and improvement over time.

© 2016 Lisa M. Aldisert