The assumption that change has to start at the top is wrong. You don’t have to wait for senior leaders to make it a better place.
Managers don’t have to wait for senior management to start a process of organizational revitalization. ~Michael Beer
The first step in building shared vision is to give up the traditional notion that vision is always announced from “on high.” ~Peter Senge
Begin within your own sphere of influence.
Where do you have the greatest influence? Most likely within your own team. Consider the widest sphere that you can impact. This is the place to start.
Take responsibility to provide leadership.
Leadership is more than just good management practices. Leadership is about going somewhere.
Where do you want to go?
You don’t need to figure this out all by yourself. If you want to go somewhere with others, involve them in the discussion. Take time out from the daily frenzy of activity to sit back and consider the big picture, to dream together about what might be possible.
4 Important Leadership Questions to Discuss With Your Team
1) What is our purpose? What is the value of the service we provide?
2) What would we look like if we were magnificent at fulfilling our purpose?
3) What would we accomplish? What results would we see that would demonstrate it?
4) What would our relationships look like? With each other on the team and with other departments? How would we work together? What would be happening and not be happening?
You have more power than you think.
Through these discussions you will discover more commonalities and shared dreams than you might have thought. It is possible to create a team that shines, even within a dull organization. And when others begin to notice the sparkle, they just might ask how you did it and give it a try themselves.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
Jesse, I LOVE this post! Thank you for reminding me how energized I get when I am reminded of the difference that each one of us can make – regardless of our perceived limitations! (The word magnificent in question two is marvelous!)
If we all did what we could, with what we have, right where we are, we would live in an amazing world!
Thanks, Chery. I agree: “If we all did what we could, with what we have, right where we are, we would live in an amazing world!” You remind me a quote from Lily Tomlin, “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”
Great post Jesse, and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately – our perception of leadership. You mention the assumption that change starts at the top (the perception is that leadership is there also) we have many opportunities to lead if we alter our perception to see them.
Thanks for your thoughts,
Great point that when we alter our perception, we see opportunities we never saw before. Perception is our reality. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Carl.
Great post, Jesse! We all have power and the ability to shape our own future.
I’ll echo that, Joy, and add to it: We all have power and the ability to shape our future and make it a better one for ourselves and the next generations.
Wonderfully said, Jesse. This is so critical. We can define purpose and lead with purpose from wherever we are in whatever we are doing. We just need to embrace the opportunity and lead forward. Thanks! Jon
Thanks, Jon. I think sometimes we get overwhelmed when we look at the big picture and forget that when we start where we are, we can make a difference that ripples outward.
Excellent questions that everyone can ask of themselves and their team mates. What would a good future look like? Powerful.
Thanks, Joe. These questions are quite intentional because they are about the end-result, not the means to achieve them. When people know they share the same goals and values, there is trust that each will be able to determine how best to proceed in the way that makes the most sense.
Love your post…and your first point really resonated with me: start with your sphere of influence. That is where credibility is built up. I also think that starting with your sphere of influence helps you hone down your idea into someting specific and actionable.
Great point, LaRae. It’s hard to imagine what action we can take that will impact congress, but it’s not difficult at all to identify ways we impact our team at work or our neighborhood at home.
Important post Jesse. Another thought is that the lack of leadership on the part of someone I report to does not give me an excuse for poor performance. I can still lead by making sure I complete my tasks with excellence and with a great attitude. A willingness to fill in the leaders gaps can go a long way with your team members.
Such an important point, Jon, and well said. Too often people complain that the people above them are providing poor leadership without looking in their own backyard. Thanks so much for adding to the conversation.
Jesse; really great post. Great questions and the idea of great ideas starting within the team and working up through the organization is fantastic. The key ingredient is upper level management allowing new ideas to filter this way.
Indeed, Tom. No one said it would be easy. (See my last post on Creative Tension). But I have seen teams thrive in organizations where they did not have upper level management support. And when the upward pressure gets too great, the organization itself beings to shift.
This is the nicest kick in the pants I have had in a long time. 🙂 I always appreciate your insights!
You don’t need to figure out where to go by yourself… Wow!
I’m a get it done on my own type. It took me way too long to learn to let others in… You challenge the Lone Ranger in us.
Thanks, Dan. It’s a hard lesson for many of us to learn in our “Lone Ranger” culture here in the US.
Great article/post! I agree leadership can and should take place at any and all level. The “bottom up” approach is as valuable, if not more so in some instances, than top down leadership. A word of caution: the existing “defined leader(s)” may resent your efforts. If you find yourself at such a place of employment leave as quickly as possible or be prepared to outlast an entrenched group of “defined leaders”.
Thanks Payne. It’s always a fine balance when working for change from within.
One thing that many people do not realize is that in most groups, there is a leadership vacuum just waiting to be filled. All you need to do is seize the moment. Don’t automatically assume that someone above you on the corporate hierarchy is a better leader than you are.
Excellent point, Josh! There’s a huge leadership vacuum in many organizations. When your motivation is to help the organization (not your own self-interest), people can tell the difference and appreciate your leadership efforts.
This is the perfect piece to pass on to a colleague I am now working with on an engagement. We were just talking today about “assumed responsibility” — when you see something that needs doing, do it!
“When you see something that needs doing, do it.”
A great motto.
An excellent article. By looking at the question “what would we look like if we were magnificent at fulfilling our purpose” as a third party, really sets a great bench mark. This allows one to grow/evolve!
Thank you, Vishal. I’ve used these questions with teams many times over the years and that is always one of the most powerful ones.
Very wise words, thank you for the insight. I would paraphrase it simply as “Leadership starts here!”
Well-said, Martin. I’d love to see that in a poster or on a bumper sticker.