by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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As winter begins to wind down and spring starts to roll in, plants and trees are beginning their transformation from winter dormancy to spring blooms. It is a beautiful and inspiring time of the year, one that empowers us to seek hope and dream of better days ahead. Leadership often follows a similar pattern of transformation. Leadership skills within individuals and organizations are often held in a dormancy stage, just waiting for the opportunity to bloom. However, without opportunities to bloom, these leaders are held down, unable to demonstrate their ability to lead others. This is a common occurrence in organizations throughout society, due in large part to the misconception that only formal authority figures can be leaders.
As we know from our experiences, leaders are not always just the formal authorities in our organizations. Leadership can occur at all levels of an organization, and in all situations. The key is the ability of a person to lead others towards a common goal or vision. However, without the opportunities for people to demonstrate leadership and to develop leadership skills, leadership within organizations remains top-heavy. This situation becomes very destructive, especially when the formal authority person retires or leaves for another organization. Suddenly there is a vacuum of leadership in the organization because attention has not been given to developing the next wave of leaders.
We need to provide opportunities for leadership to bloom within our organizations. In order for new leadership to bloom there must be a cultivating environment. Similar to the way that we water our plants and the sun provides fuel for growth, the culture in our organization should support the growth of leadership. An incredible way to support these opportunities is to distribute leadership roles throughout the organization. Instead of always relying on formal authority figures to lead work groups, we can open the floor to let leaders bloom from unexpected places. When provided opportunities to display leadership blooms, individuals can begin to grow into leadership positions and develop the skills needed to be leaders in the organization.
The positive outcomes of providing opportunities for leadership to bloom are three-fold. First of all, the individuals in our organizations will strengthen their skills and broaden their experiences by taking on new roles in their work. This can provide new perspectives and experiences that can sharpen their productive output. Secondly, our organizations will become less reliant on a top-heavy leadership process. Members of the organization will not be slowed by waiting for an authority figure to tell them what to do, but will rather be able to self-direct themselves into productivity. Collaborations will become more horizontal, rather than vertically down from an authority figure, which will increase the input from all levels of the collaboration. Finally, when leadership is able to bloom organically, our organizations will not be faced with a leadership vacuum when the authority figure has left the organization. Countless members of the organization will be ready to step up to fill the leadership gaps, because they have felt the bloom of their own leadership.
Ultimately, the goal of our organizations should be to provide opportunities for leadership to bloom throughout all levels of the organization. By striving towards this goal, our organizations are strengthened from the inside. So as spring begins to roll in this year, we should take time to consider how we can ensure that leadership blooms in our organizations, and how we can cultivate an environment where leadership is displayed in brilliant ways. For it is then that we will be taken over by the same eternal hope of better days ahead, both for individuals and the organization as a whole.