Organizations have many sound business reasons to develop the leadership potential of all employees. Having a strong, responsible, and empowered staff can lead to improved performance and business results. Leadership, after all, is not reserved for key positions. It can be practiced at all levels of the organization, regardless of employees’ job functions or tenure in their positions.
Strategic leadership is about a way of thinking and acting. It starts with an attitude. If an organization is willing to empower employees to become leaders, an important first step is to develop a “leadership mindset” in its people.
Elements of the strategic leadership mindset
To encourage this mindset across the organization, we need to understand the key elements of strategic leadership. Here are four aspects of being a leader that every employee can develop:
- Responsibility (reliability, duty, commitment, obligation)
- Empowerment (initiative, drive, self-sufficiency)
- Accountability (acceptance of consequences and willing answerability)
- Learning (continuous learning and improvement)
Organizations can use the following approaches to develop a leadership mindset in employees at all levels:
- Set an example of the strategic leadership mindset
- Use language that reflects the key elements above
- Make these elements part of the organization’s values and culture
- Celebrate and reward people who display the capability to think like a leader
- Coach employees in developing leadership skills
Developing leadership skills
Some examples of ways to develop responsibility include creating agreements about the responsibility for assignments, finding opportunities for staff to take on responsibility, and setting SMART goals. To develop an empowered staff, use empowering and inclusive language, delegate projects to employees, and show appreciation. Promote accountability by coaching employees in the elements of leadership, celebrating achievements, and helping new leaders learn from mistakes.
Leadership development is mainly a process of self-development. It happens over a period of time, through practice, persistence, and the feedback of managers.
Source: Adapted from the American Management Association course Developing Leaders at All Levels.
To inspire others and achieve results, business leaders must deliver compelling messages and develop an authentic leadership voice.