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How Do We Apply an Organizationwide Leadership Model?

Our executives have told us they want everyone here to “think like a leader.” The thrust is to get people to take ownership and hopefully boost engagement/morale and make us generally more productive and a better place to work. We have good leadership programs in place but have never applied a leadership model across the entire organization. Although this sounds like a great idea in theory, how do we put it into practice? Where do we start and what steps do we follow?

 — Aiming to Please, distribution, Gaithersburg, Maryland

March 10, 2014
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Related Topics: Management Skills and Development, Organizational Development, The Latest, Dear Workforce, Talent Management, Workplace Culture, Training
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Dear Aiming to Please:

Your instincts are on point with wanting to introduce a leadership model throughout your organization. Whenever people work together as a unit, it strengthens their sense of ownership, morale and level of engagement. 

In his 2001 book, Leadership Theory and Practice,”Peter Northouse defines leadership as a process whereby one individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. To be an effective leader, managers must influence their employees in a positive way to reach the organization’s goals. When you become a leader, it is no longer about you. It is about helping others find success. Your success as a leader comes not from what you do, but from how your team performs. Growing the team to embrace a leadership model and have positive outcomes at the same time is nothing short of a win-win. 

One of the first steps is to identify (through focus groups, department meetings and one-to-one meetings) the values, beliefs, vision and goals that are important to your employees. You need an organizational foundation upon which to build — it can’t simply come from the top. Employees at all levels of the organization need to identify what they need and want from their leaders. You are likely to uncover gaps, which isn’t a bad thing since it helps you get where you need to be. Don’t rush through this part — it is hard work and it takes time.  

Once you understand the things that your employees value, you can begin to think about a leadership model. The model should be simple. You shouldn’t have to look at a sheet of paper, a laminated index card or a poster on the wall to know what the organization values and believes.    

Truth be told, it isn’t about the leadership model itself, but about the individual pieces and parts that comprise the model. I use the example of a performance management system. Most people are concerned about the system, its capability and functionality. In reality, the greatest thing about a performance management system is the action that happens as a result of the system. As with a leadership model, it is simply the mechanism to make it happen. 

To really make an impact, tie your leadership model to your goals and objectives as well as your performance management process. Reward those who actively demonstrate the organization’s vision and values.  

Whatever model you subscribe to, it must have the ability to get people to want to change, to improve and to be led. A leadership model should involve assessing employee motivation, identifying their needs and then meeting them, and most important, valuing them. Employees want to feel like their contributions make a difference. Enabling them to own the process is crucial to successful implementation.  

SOURCE: Margaret Walker, Principal at FutureSense Inc., Costa Mesa, California, Jan. 29, 2014

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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