How to nurture leaders, not followers

By Adam Blanch

How do you bring out leadership in your staff? Try these approaches for nurturing leaders, not followers.

Let's face it, not every member of your staff is destined for high leadership positions. Most of them aren't. That doesn't mean that they aren't all leaders in their own right, or at least capable of it. The trick is to not fall into the trap of seeing people as either leaders or followers.

Leadership isn't just about 'who's in charge' - that's authority. True leadership is about who is taking responsibility for making things happen. When you look at the workplace in that way you open up the possibility that everyone can, and should, be a leader. So how do you bring out the leadership in your staff? Try these approaches.

Find their unique gifts

We often make the mistake of fitting the person to the role, instead of fitting the role to the person. Every staff member will have strengths and weaknesses. If we design our teams around those and give responsibilities to the people who are best able to fulfil them, we end up with a team of specialist leaders who work together to fill in the gaps. These teams love their work because they are being set up to succeed, feel recognised for their contributions and feel supported by the other members. Most importantly, they feel important, and that encourages people to take responsibility.

Encourage creativity, not compliance

Having a quality framework is vital to ensuring a minimum standard of product or service, but we need to be careful to make sure it doesn't condemn us to a minimum standard of product or service. When we make compliance the king, there is no room for exceeding expectations or discovering new ways to achieve better results. If we allow our staff to be creative, without punishing them for the mistakes that are an inevitable part of that process, they can take our business to the next level.

Reward results, not time

Anyone can work hard, and if hard work is what we reward then our staff will do that without necessarily producing great results. However, when we ask our staff to be results focused and relax around how they achieve that, everyone wins. If things aren't going well then the whole team pitches in to get over the line, but if things are moving faster or better than we need them to, the team can relax and enjoy things a bit more. It's like any sport - we measure our success by the number of goals scored not by the amount of time on the field. Reward winning, not playing - that way everyone becomes a leader.

If you redefine leadership as the willingness to take responsibility, everyone can be a leader.


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