Creating leaders at every level

It is said that leadership is an attitude, management a position, so how can businesses encourage the attitude that any employee, including those outside the C-Suite, should consider themselves a ‘leader’?

Talent optimisation is fuelled by workforce analytics, otherwise known as people data. When business leaders leverage people data, they’re empowered to make objective decisions rather than subjective ones. Shooting from the hip and going with your gut only works for so long, and even then it’s not repeatable, measurable, or scalable. There are a variety of tools and techniques to collect and measure people data.

While it’s true that people are complex, that is no excuse to accept the status quo. Armed with the right people data, leaders know that the way people behave and interact in organisations is, in fact predictable, given the business context. Most important is to take an objective, systematic approach to understanding people in organisations and using the resulting insights to make improvements to the way they work.

Talent optimisation must be embraced by leaders at every level - it won’t work if it’s only implemented in the C-Suite. While talent optimisation must begin with buy-in at the top (executives will be the first champions), it can’t end there.

Why create “leaders at every level”?

Organisations that roll out talent optimisation must adopt the mindset of leaders at every level. This means that leadership extends beyond the VPs and Directors to first line managers and the individual contributors. Anyone in the business can and should be regarded as a leader, whether that means they manage down, up, across, or self-manage.

There are three primary reasons for striving to create leaders at every level:

  1. Even the most proficient senior leaders aren’t able to scale the business on their own; they need leaders at every level to reinforce their intent
  2. A leader may exit the organisation creating a leadership void that must be filled
  3. Developing future leaders will create higher levels of employee engagement and leadership readiness as the organisation evolves

While some organisations reserve the term leader for its most senior members, this is too limiting.  The better goal is to have leaders at every level of the organisation. While the scope of leadership may be more limited for middle and first-line managers, their opportunity and responsibility to lead are the same. Even individual contributors should regard themselves as leaders since they influence the work to be done and those around them.

The importance of leadership agility

It is often said that leadership is an attitude while management is a position. High-performing teams often have individual contributors driving the results for the organisation. And even if these employees do not manage people or projects, they are regarded as leaders amongst and by their peers.

With those who do manage people and projects, the concept around leadership agility is becoming increasingly important as it pertains to building, growing, developing, and retaining high-performing teams. Organisations that are agile and flexible are best positioned to leverage changing situations like market forces, technological advances, and environmental complexity.

As a leader, you must be flexible in terms of your leadership style and methods. The same can be said of the rest of the leaders in your organisation. Leaders are sometimes called upon to direct multiple groups of employees simultaneously, and that means they need to find ways to effectively engage with different personality types, strengths, and abilities.

Agile leaders flex themselves to meet the needs of their teams while maintaining sustainable progress towards achieving results.  If you strive towards talent optimisation, you need leaders at every level.