Systemic Leadership

Most people who have led effective organizations know about the importance of leadership.  It affects every aspect of an organization. It is necessary to drive improvement and adapt to change.  

However, far too often, what is overlooked is the importance of leadership development. That is, being deliberate and consistent about making it a priority.  Most organizations fail to recognize that its’ success is limited only to the degree in which the leader(s) exhibit effective leadership behaviors.

Let’s take trust as an example.  Trust is arguably the most important component of a positive culture, which explains why so many experts have studied it and why most effective organizations have made it a priority.  

But let’s say only some of the leaders have earned the trust of their colleagues, direct reports, or other stakeholders.  If the leader(s) are only able to muster up 87 percent octane, then there is no way the organization will surpass that. That’s why great organizations recognize that leadership is systemic, and align resources accordingly.

So how do great organizations make leadership systemic?  There are multiple ways, but here are a few behaviors I’ve seen strong leaders demonstrate:

  1. Be enthusiastic. An organization’s leader(s) have to be more enthusiastic about the mission or purpose of the organization than anyone else in the organization. Just as with the trust example above, employee enthusiasm will never be greater than the leader’s.
  1. Invest in leadership development. Some people become leaders because they’ve had experiences that have taught them skills necessary to inspire and empower others; however, I’ve never met a leader–even those who demonstrate leadership behaviors–who would not say they need to learn more. 
  1. Make it personal.  Leaders who are able to demonstrate vulnerability, who sincerely care about their people, and prioritize relationships, are far more effective motivating and inspiring their team than those who do not.

Systemic leadership, that is leadership that spans all areas of an organization and affects all stakeholders, can be achieved other ways. However, being deliberate and consistent about making leadership development an ongoing process is critical.

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