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  • Writer's pictureMark Loftus

How to create a culture of leadership

Can everyone be a leader?

The word ‘leader’ for most people brings to mind those in positions at the top levels of an organisation. The idea of viewing everyone as having a leadership contribution to make can come across as idealistic and unrealistic. It instinctively seems at odds with the reality of how organisations are structured.

Yet at its simplest level, leadership is a choice. We are leading every time we make a decision on behalf of our team, push a conversation in a certain direction or go out of our way to support a colleague or friend. It is less about position in an organisation and more about appetite and willingness to make a difference.

The risk of followership

So let’s we reframe the question: if not leadership, does an organisation need followers and followership?

Many leaders see it as their responsibility to energise their team to tackle and solve the operational problems, challenges and complexity which naturally arise in a business. But if the team has the capability to solve them, then why do they need motivating and inspiring?

If leadership equates to action, then the risk with a followership mentality is that it naturally tends towards inaction. The result all too often can be a sense of people passively watching, waiting, debating and feeling uncertain. And even worse, of people blaming and criticising their leaders for not being good enough – placing the reason for their own lack of motivation and satisfaction on their leaders.

A culture that creates leadership

Culture is effectively a self-supporting web of beliefs and behaviours. Over time these become leadership practices and eventually create an environment that attracts people who share their values. Senior leaders have a key role to play in creating this culture, but need to be careful that this culture creates leaders and leadership, rather than followers and followership.

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

A culture that drives development

People’s leadership contributions needs time and space to grow and people must feel this growth is valued. They also need to be able to openly discuss and reflect on their progress and the obstacles they face and be able to experiment with new ideas and approaches.

Developing our leadership contribution revolves around recognising and unlocking potential: identifying our natural talents, having a vision of ourselves making a leadership contribution, and working to turn that vision into a reality. It is rooted in the mentality that each one of us already has natural strengths of character and that becoming a good leader will be built on a foundation of these strengths. At the end of the day, people choose to follow other people because of their characters as much as their competence.

A culture that drives performance

Organisations that prioritise developing leadership lead in attracting, retaining, and nurturing the best talent. A developmental mindset empowers that talent to go beyond their comfort zone, with an awareness of their natural strengths. A culture that embeds these principles inevitably drives a company to high performance. It tends to adopt core values. It inspires employee and client engagement. It aspires to lead in its industry. It organically fosters innovation and collaboration while recognising and unlocking potential.

Imagine an organisation full of people that understand their own value, the strengths of their peers and their potential. Where every team functions at peak performance, understands the organisation’s overarching business goals and has a true sense of purpose and direction. This is the catalyst for business transformation.

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