I was working at a large media organisation this week and one of the corporate leaders mentioned their plans to move people around and also have younger people buddy up with older managers.
This was to share and deepen the organisations collective understanding of technology and social media.
I know this is a good idea because I often lean on my teenage daughter for help in these areas.
Although I do notice she has a short attention span and becomes increasingly frustrated with my lack of intuitive knowledge.
But I digress.
My point is this.
I am wondering if these younger employees, in this situation are behaving like leaders?
They have knowledge, understanding, are helping others towards some shared goal.
This sounds like leadership to me.
This opens up an exciting opportunity.
What if we could let go of the idea of a leader being a single position.
I know plenty of leaders that have senior positions yet rarely display leadership (some of our politicians come to mind).
What if we could open our minds to the idea that everyone is a potential leader depending on the situation.
As leadership expert the late Warren Bennis notes,
“In fact, almost everyone of us can point to some leadership experience.”
What if we could conceive of leadership as:
- situation specific i.e. who in the group has the most relevant knowledge or experience in this area?
- a role (not a position)
- dynamic i.e. I could be a leader of one group yet a follower in another
- both formal and informal e.g. I could lead a brainstorming group through the originality of my ideas even though i may not be the formal leader
- talking to both male and female, young and old, experienced and the new
- a process and set of behaviours and skills
As Bill Gore, founder of W.L. Gore, the maker of Gore-Tex, said, “Leadership is defined by what you do, not who you are.”
This new perspective on leadership reminds me of the concept of leaderful teams.
The idea that any one team can have multiple leaders.
I first came across this idea from Australian Hockey player and coach, Rick Charlesworth (MD, politician).
In an article in the Forbes magazine he describes the benefits of a leaderful team as follows:
“A single leader can generate only so many ideas and concentrate on only so many things.
A critical mass of leaders allows for more possibilities and more solutions and ideas to be filtered by the group.
You’re therefore likely to come up with better answers.
Plus, having multiple leaders ensures that all feel they have a say in decisions.
My idea of a leaderful team is an extension of the concept of having multiple leaders.
Everyone is expected to contribute what they can.
All may not have the competence or the experience to contribute in like ways and amounts, yet all are expected to contribute something, on the field and off, as their personalities and skills allow.”
I particularly like Ric’s observation of the dynamic between the individual and the group in a leaderful team.
“The goal of each individual in a leaderful team is to achieve personal excellence in a cooperative environment.
Cooperation is as highly valued as personal success or individual achievement.”
Surely it is about time that we all consider leaderful teams.
Perhaps my small wins way approach is also the mechanism of making this come alive.
Leaderful teams is a idea whose time has come.