In past articles we’ve touched on the importance of empowering your employees to take responsibility for their roles. One way of doing this is through the Japanese approach of kaizen, as we discussed last time. However what about an even more radical approach - trying to create leaders at every level of the organisation?
Business is becoming increasingly democratised through new media and social networking. An SME with five employees can tweet, blog, market and sell over the internet on a level playing field with the big guns.
Similarly, the old hierarchical style of management and leadership is looking increasingly dated and ineffectual. Not to use too many political analogies in these fascinating times but just as David Cameron is encouraging the “Big Society” where everyone is enabled to take responsibility for their own lives and communities, businesses are beginning to re-evaluate their own leadership structures.
Management guru Robin Sharma takes a look at this in his new book “The Leader Who Had No Title”. Sharma examines the companies consistently rated the best to work for by their employees (such as Apple, Google, Dreamworks, Nike and FedEx). He’s evaluated exactly what makes them tick – why is it they create this “wow” factor? One of the key ways they have succeeded is by making their employees feel that they have a voice and that they are part of a family. Sounds hokey? Too idealistic? Sharma argues that business is nothing more than “a human venture built on high calibre relationships”. People like to be heard, feel valued, enjoy themselves and feel supported. In that way they become more productive and creative in their jobs. Remember your employees are your key asset – put them first.
So how does Sharma suggest we build this empowered, dynamic philosophy into our own lives and businesses? Firstly accept you don’t need a title to be a leader. It’s not about authority or being at the “top” of the tree – it’s about choosing to do your best work each day, regardless of what your job is. The essential idea is that everyone feels they can become a leader of their own role within the business, to do it as well as they can do and take responsibility for it.
Encourage yourself and your employees to shift from victimhood to leadership. Don’t blame external events, whinge and criticise, but drive positive change in your business life every day. Encourage everyone on your team, whatever level they are at, and use the difficult times as a learning opportunity to re-evaluate your approach and strategy. Remember that tough times build strong leaders.
Thirdly, innovate or stagnate. Don’t accept mediocrity and don’t allow your employees to accept it in themselves and their work. Keep improving and keep challenging the way you do things. Push yourself beyond your limits. Keep trying to move out of your comfort zone, and encourage your employees to do the same.
Fourthly, become a value creator rather than a clock watcher. Focus on fewer, smarter activities that create the most value and give you the most return.
Finally, lead yourself first. This one is fairly obvious. Lead from the top, set an example, and others will follow. Be an inspiration to your employees.
You may argue that this is easy for the Nikes and Apples of this world. But these principles are equally applicable whatever your business size. People are people. Why not see where some of these ideas take you and your business?
If you’re interested in this approach to leadership and management, Robin Sharma’s book is available to buy on Amazon.
Deborah Done, the author of our Big Ideas, is founder and director of Nab Communications, a freelance public relations agency which provides sensible and value for money PR advice to regional and national businesses.
The Big Idea: Creating Leaders At Every Level
May 21 2010