Leaders today need to, not only develop loyal and committed followers, but also unleash other leaders who can lead various critical tasks.
Leadership in this scenario is not about the great skills and talents of “the leader,” but the collective strengths and blended talents of the leaders and the followers, who variously lead at times and follow others at times in a dynamic dance. Leadership is a group performance, not a solo act.
If you don’t unleash other leaders, you will underachieve, be overwhelmed, and overworked. You will be trapped in “busyness,” with more work on your desk and more stress on your shoulders.
Unleashing other leaders means empowering them to lead without micromanaging them. It means giving them an automatic license to lead by the shared values (which are collaboratively set). When you unleash other leaders, you boost team performance, lighten your workload, and get more innovation, engagement, and commitment from people.
Everyone has the capability to lead at work if they so choose, because they already lead in many areas of their lives: in their families and with nonprofits, sports teams, places of worship, neighborhood groups, and more. Leadership is not the sole purview of top authorities. Such a view greatly limits what teams can accomplish. Some people are born with traits that facilitate their leadership abilities, but anyone can lead if they choose—and anyone and everyone can improve and develop their leadership. Of course, some people will choose to diligently follow, and they are also important.
You can unleash other leaders by collaboratively eliciting shared values among your associates and establishing clear boundaries and goals. We recommend setting the overarching goal of being an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization, one that has a culture of character and high performance with everyone empowered to be stewards of that culture.
Of course, you will have to demonstrate and role model the type of leadership you want to see in the organization. You will have to coach your team members on their leadership, giving them freedom to try new approaches to achieve the goals you mutually set, even if you see they will make some mistakes (as long as those errors are not disastrous). As you coach them, check in with them occasionally, asking questions, and allowing them to find their own answers. Offer them clear, prompt feedback—both positive and constructive. Remove roadblocks, and recognize and encourage them. Leadership is best learned through coached practice.
Weak or insecure leaders fear they will lose control by unleashing other leaders, but such control is an illusion. By guiding and inspiring other leaders, you will enhance your leadership.
As a result, you will become a leader of leaders, not just a leader of followers.
Are you unleashing other leaders?
Bob and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, winner of the 2013 International Book Awards (Business: General). Twitter: @TripleCrownLead