I recently came across an article on Forbes.com titled, Cultivate Leaders Throughout An Organization, Not Just At The Top, by Zephrin Lasker. As I read the article I thought it important to share with you all. There is a great reference in this article to get us going today – acclaimed essayist William Deresiewicz, in a thought-provoking lecture given to a class at the US Military Academy at West Point, contended that America’s elite schools are no longer churning out a nation of leaders, they are churning out flocks of sheep.
What then are some alternative qualities of leadership? Deresiewicz believes leaders are people who think for themselves, people who can formulate a new direction for a company – people with their own visions, developed independent of existing paradigms and patterns.
From there the article’s author presents three approaches to create the environment that will foster leadership. I could not agree more with these approaches and I welcome your input. Here are some of my own observations:
- Free Thinkers: The author cites his own example of a high-tech company where he and other leaders provide a very open-work approach including employees setting their own hours. Alas, that approach does not work everywhere, but the point for us leaders is to consider how we can still foster an environment of Free Thinkers. As a start … we should assure that there is space and time for staff to think about what they do, how they contribute, and how they can perform even better. As a leader myself, I need to be open to those Free Thinkers around me and encourage them to explore.
- Agents for Change: Baa, Baa go the sheep. We are well-trained and know what to do. I want you to look at this from your own perspective as a leader – do you build on the Free Thinker idea to encourage those in your leadership sphere to act as change agents? Your actions and emphasis will say volumes about your support for the change agents around you. Remember one of the most powerful questions from a leader’s lips, is “What do you think?”
The Happiness Quotient: We have to love when research provides proof for what we yea, already know. The article author refers to the research from Jennifer Aaker and her book, The Dragonfly Effect. The research findings flow around allowing people to find meaning in their work, make connections, and feel as part of something bigger than themselves. My own posts have, and will continue to speak to, fostering an authentic workplace, which depends on these same elements. These findings also speak to building a sustainable community, yes even at our workplace (there is my business anthropology moment for the day).
Have a great day, and hopefully you do not bump into too many sheep today.