Think Like a Leader: Cultivating Leaders in the Workplace

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t care, what do you want?”

“I’m not sure, you pick.”

“No, you pick.”

How many times have we all had this conversation? For me, nearly every weekend my boyfriend and I have some form of this conversation, about dinner, TV shows/movies, or what to do that day. Now imagine having a circular conversation like this in the workplace when decisions need to be made. For some of you, maybe you don’t have to imagine. So how do you avoid this? You help your team to have confidence in their abilities and promote leadership.word cloud

“Empathy, respect for those you lead, and acceptance/execution of responsibility and commitment to your position. Cultivate by encouraging and recognizing strengths, giving practical tools and continued monitored support in weaknesses.” – Amanda H.

To begin, we need to define what a leader is. If you google the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s (remember when you actually had to buy those for school?) definition of a leader, there are several definitions given. Out of those, one stood out to me. A leader is: “a person who has commanding authority or influence”. Now, one may see the words commanding and authority as intimidating. Not what you’d like a workplace leader to be. But, let’s think of things in a different way. When looking for potential leaders in the work place, you want them to be an “authority” on specific aspects essential to your operation. You also want them to “command” certain attributes that will “influence” and motivate others.

“A leader takes the time to learn the job of the people they are managing. Also I would say a leader has to be a good listener, get to know more about the people you manage so you can help them grow.” – Aela S.

What you may want these individuals to be authorities on, which attributes to command, and how /what they influence may differ depending on your goals. No matter what your goals may be, one should be working to foster the growth of leadership in your organization from the newest employee to the most tenured. Why is it important to foster leadership in all employees? Won’t you end up with too many chiefs and not enough Indians? Not necessarily. Just because you foster leadership among your workforce, does not mean each person will be making essential decisions for your group; what it does mean is they can think for themselves, motivate each other, and make suggestions that will help innovate from the ground up.

Here are three easy ways you can encourage leadership in your work place.

Support Innovation– Has one of your employees made suggestions or found new work-arounds that will make day to day activities more productive? Give them credit, encourage others to do the same. Ask for input and value the opinions given. If employees know they will be heard and their suggestions given a chance, they will start to think more critically about their work environment.

Acknowledge Successes and Strengths– You may not be able to promote each employee that excels but you can acknowledge them. Acknowledging workplace leaders on their successes and reinforcing their strengths will encourage them to continue to produce and in turn they will influence others with their positive attitudes and work ethic.

Let Them Lead– Micromanaging is something no one is fond of. Though it may be hard to let your employees loose to figure out processes themselves, give them some freedom to adjust things, but only when needed. Letting employees problem solve themselves promotes critical thinking, which is a key leadership skill.