“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” —Warren Bennis
By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM
Who Are They?
Leadership is not about a position; it can come from anyone. It is taking place all around us on a daily basis. Being a true leader goes beyond a title or position; it grows from the respect and credibility that is earned when working with others. This respect and credibility allows everyday leaders to influence and guide those around them without possessing formal authority or power. So, how are these everyday leaders able to impact your organization?
Research has shown that followers often have a greater influence over the process of leadership than those who hold formal leadership positions. The everyday leader gains support based on relationships without holding a formal position of authority. And, relationships are the key to holding teams together. Successful leadership is dependent on more than just the relationships and behaviors of a single, formal leader; every individual within an organization can make a meaningful contribution to leadership. By developing and maintaining trusting relationships, these leaders are able to collaborate, share knowledge, influence group thinking, and impact team effectiveness.
Everyday leaders are often seen as friendly, open, trustworthy, experienced, and always willing to help. These leaders are out on the floor, they are in touch with what is going on, they have a network of resources, and often have access to information that formal leaders miss. They have a vested interest in the success of their department, team, and organization. All of these characteristics factor into the respect that everyday leaders earn from colleagues. This respect is a great source of power for everyday leaders. These leaders influence the culture of the organization through their willingness to get involved, share knowledge and expertise, and support their team.
Everyone needs to know that their contributions are adding value. Everyday leaders play the role of coach and supporter with an emphasis on helping others succeed. They create a sense of community where everyone knows their work is meaningful and appreciated. They encourage trust, collaboration, and a safe place to communicate. It is through their support of others that everyday leaders gain respect, trust, and influence.
Everyday leaders understand the effectiveness and importance of shared responsibility. Shared responsibility and cooperation improve the opportunity for the organization to benefit from the individual strengths of employees. When employees are given the opportunity to participate in planning and decision-making, it sends the message that they are trusted, recognized, and valued. Cooperation helps employees build on the momentum of others while working together to achieve common goals. Everyday leaders emphasize cooperation because they know what it’s like to be left on the sidelines by those in a position of authority and how difficult it is to work effectively under those conditions.
Why Do They Matter?
In every organization, there is an unacknowledged system through which work is accomplished. This system will not be found on any organizational chart. This system is guided by everyday leaders who are relied upon heavily yet are often unappreciated. These everyday leaders use influence, the building of relationships, knowledge, and expertise to advocate for the organization and enhance the contributions of employees.
Everyday leaders gain support through respect and relationship building without holding a position of authority. But, why do they matter? In a nutshell, the reason everyday leaders matter is influence. Those who can influence are those who get results. This has a big impact, whether for good or bad, on your organization. Everyday leaders have the potential to influence employees to either pursue the agenda of the organization, or their own agenda; the priorities of the organization, or conflicting priorities; the timelines of the organization, or those of their own design.
Power and influence is no longer held only by those in a position of authority, it is shared throughout the organization by employees at every level. Everyday leadership is powerful, more powerful than most formal leaders recognize. And, if you don’t recognize it, you lose the opportunity to harness its power for the good of the whole.
The culture of the organization can either hinder or promote everyday leadership. A culture that empowers everyday leaders to make a positive contribution to the organization promotes encouragement, opportunity, and the sharing of ideas and knowledge. Sharing in the leadership responsibility improves the quality of decision-making and strengthens the commitment to decisions made. Everyday leadership gives employees a voice and management an advocate.
Formal leaders should serve as facilitators; they should encourage empowerment and participation. Everyday leaders relieve formal leaders of the responsibility to control everything. This allows them to focus their energies on the important tasks of planning and coordination.
There is a limit to a formal leader’s ability to exercise influence, wield authority, and exert power. Leadership should be seen as dynamic and fluid rather than fixed. It is an emergent property where a group of individuals bring their expertise together in pursuit of a shared goal. And, it is in this environment where everyday leaders make their impact. Learn to recognize the everyday leaders in your organization; harness their power for the good of all.
© 2015 Elizabeth Stincelli
Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.
Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, stincelliadvisors.com and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.