People often think leadership is innate. You’re either born with it or you’re not. But I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not true. Of course, some people just have that charisma that draws others in, but if you’re not one of those people it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn how to be an effective leader. In fact, the vast majority of people aren’t born with it; they learn it.
But how do they learn it? One primary way is that they have mentors. And that’s where you come in.
As a leader yourself, you have an opportunity to invite leadership in others. You may be wondering why you would want that, but what you don’t realize is, you already want that. How many times have you wished that the people around you would take more initiative, be more accountable, more innovative? What you really want is for them to step up and be leaders, even if they’re not (yet) in a formal leadership role. You want them to have a vision, a strategy, and goals. You want them to mobilize the resources to generate results. At a basic level, that’s what a leader does.
So ask yourself, “Do I actively invite leadership in others?” Can you think of anyone in your orbit that displays the kind of leadership qualities above? If so, consider trying out these 4 actions in the upcoming week:
- Recognize it and reflect it back. If you’ve been leading for awhile it may be easy to overlook when people are stepping up or stepping out of their comfort zones. In short, you may not notice that they’re behaving like leaders. So, notice, and reflect it back to them.
- Encourage them. Celebrate them. Coach them. Your feedback and support are invaluable.
- Provide opportunities to lead. Create a project or a role that will allow that person to exercise and strengthen their leadership skills.
- Establish spaces for shared or collaborative leadership. Foster an environment in which people can contribute in new ways, including working closely and collaboratively with you. This one can be tricky because, of course, you are used to being the leader. You have the experience, the vision, the goals, and you may also be responsible for keeping everyone and everything on target. But if you put that aside (to some extent) and encourage collaborative leadership, you may be surprised with the results.
I am actually in this position right now. I am in the process of establishing One Million Leaders, a nonprofit organization that addresses social issues through intergenerational dialogues about leadership. I work with a diverse group; there are people of different ages, backgrounds, and experiences. Some see themselves as leaders and some do not, but they all display leadership qualities in our work together. As an experienced leader myself, as well as a leadership coach, it is sometimes difficult to remember to step back and give others the space to lead—a reaction I’ve seen in many of my executive coaching clients. But there's something quite amazing that can happen when we use our leadership to invite leadership in others.
Weekly Uplevel Practice
Think about 3 people in your professional or personal life with whom you could invite leadership. It can be someone you supervise, a colleague, family member, even someone in your community. For each person, follow the 4 actions listed above:
- Recognize their leadership and reflect it back.
- Encourage their leadership.
- Provide opportunities for them to lead.
- Provide opportunities for shared or collaborative leadership.
In this day and age, the more people tapped into their own leadership, able to contribute, and make a difference—the better!