Phillip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, said, “An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lion led by a deer.” That may be true, but I’ve come to believe that Phillip missed the bigger point: An army of lions led by a lion is to be feared most of all, for it is unstoppable.
Having strong leadership at the top is good; having effective leadership at every level in your organization is better.
What about where you work? Do you have an army of lions—leaders at every level?
At any Toyota plant, every employee on the line has the authority and responsibility to shut down the line at any time they feel necessary. Quality control and problem solving aren’t left to the titled managers. A woman who spots a problem is expected to lead by calling attention to it rather than allowing it to slip through and become an imperfection on a dealer’s lot or owner’s driveway. Employees are expected to take responsibility.
Having a title doesn’t necessarily make anyone a leader, but not having a title shouldn’t keep anyone from leading. In the best organizations, everyone is expected to lead when they can and should.
So how can you develop leaders at every level?
Make sure that everyone you work with knows when it is “appropriate” to lead and that is whenever they can increase ROI: Relationships, Outcomes and Improvements.
Relationships with your company are built by you and your coworkers.
Most organizations focus on customer transactions; great service providers focus on customer relationships—getting to know and understand the customer, and using that information to serve him or her better.
Outcomes can and should be enriched. The reception desk employee who walks you to the difficult-to-find elevators to your room is positive influencing your perception of the property. Adding a little more care, attention and value to any important activity can enrich the experience for others.
Improvements. Employees should be expected, encouraged and rewarded for making suggestions and implementing them. Everyone working together to improve the business in little ways can create big improvements.
Make sure provide the training employees need to be successful. Don’t ask employees to do something they haven’t been taught to do. Expectation without education equals frustration. Teach employees how to build better relationships, enrich outcomes and suggest and implement improvements.
Sometimes a simple reminder or word of encouragement is all it takes to get someone to take leadership responsibility, whether or not they have a leadership title.
If you want to have an army of lions where everyone takes responsibility to lead, make sure they know when it is appropriate to lead and that the have the necessary skills.