Friday, February 01, 2008

The Straight Poop

When you ask leaders where they actually learned their leadership style, a typical response is “from other leaders.” We have been taught to emulate the qualities and styles of those we wish to resemble. If that is called role modeling, I'm on board with that, but I think sometimes many of us stop there rather than realizing that other input is pretty important too. To that end, in recent times, attention is turning toward employees as individuals from which leaders can learn a lot.

I recently read an article in The Wall Street Journal that suggested that leaders turn to their organizations’ lower-level employees — or followers — for guidance. The article notes how such a strategy has worked for well-known businesses as Best Buy, United Parcel Service and Hewlett-Packard. It also cites two recent books on this subject: Followership by Barbara Kellerman and The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom.

The authors suggest that companies turn to these employees and listen to their ideas to create new ways to drive growth and continued organizational success. They should know what’s happening within the company and be allowed to make solid contributions.

The argument of course is because these individuals typically work in the trenches, they can be more knowledgeable about day-to-day operations. They likely know much more about customers since they have more direct contact. They probably also know what the competition is doing. I sign up for that too, and have to say that this has been my experience as well.

I have always thought it important to gain a fresh perspective, especially when faced with a challenge.

When you are faced with a need for answers, where do you turn?

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