It should come as no surprise that we at Contagious Companies believe leadership is contagious! Yet, what might surprise you (or maybe not) is that we also believe leadership is about the team and not just the leader. It truly does take a team to make most things in your organization or business work well and that sometimes means the leader must get out of the way. However, if it’s taken too far and you become an absentee leader, the team will find a new one to replace you and usually it will be one of them!
How is it that a team without a leader will create one to follow? Why is it that this happens? And how can you be aware, but also draw on this natural phenomenon for an increase in team work and productivity?
On the back cover of Contagious Leadership there is a quote: “Leaders are not born… they’re developed.” This leads us to note that anyone of any personality type can be a leader. These skills can be demonstrated and done well by more than just those we might normally say are “born leaders”. Thus when a team leader emerges, even without a title, it is often because this person had the strength the team needed at that moment the most.
As often happens in our office, different team members lead different efforts. But what also happens is when the CEO, or um… me, is out of pocket, on stage, or otherwise unable to lead a particular effort, team members quickly fill in the gap, take on the project or learn a new skill in order to keep the progress of that effort moving forward. Some of this is due to being given the leeway to do these things, other times it is because team members crave direction and if they’re not getting what they need, they tend to create one. An example of where one might see this regularly is in MBA or Degree programs with self-directed study teams. Mind you, self-directed does not mean “leaderless”, it merely means no leader was assigned so they chose one or maybe many.
If the titles in your organization are so rigid that only those with a title can lead and all others must follow, the team you lead may become frustrated or even bored with those parameters. Even the best of Executive Assistants lead your calendar. Salespeople lead customers. That means that if the sales person needs something from the leader in order to make the sale or get the job done, then the leader needs to follow their lead. Leaders who no longer know how to follow will create a team of forever followers without the initiative that you so often wish they had. Once you remove the initiative by insisting you’re the only one in charge all the time, its awfully hard to get it back.
Those Contagious Leaders who are the most effective and have the greatest results are those who recognize easily that while the team could likely survive without the leader, the leader might struggle or fail without the team. Give them the credit they deserve, the leeway they need to succeed, and the authority, use of judgment, and resources to continue taking initiative even in your absence. Of course the other option is to hover over them and micro-manage them all or simply disappear, give them little direction and complain about their results. Hmmm… those last two options don’t sound very good and certainly wouldn’t give you the kind of contagious results you want!
Thank you to the team at Contagious Companies!