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Activating staff to become leaders

Angus Ridgway, Co-Founder and CEO, Potentialife

Research by Potentialife investigated the latest scientific observations and thinking in leadership behaviours. The current business landscape, paired with consumer mass-adoption of technology, creates a highly fertile climate to drive measurable behavioural change in the workplace. Businesses today must embrace this new era, and understand that it takes many leaders, at all levels of a business, to drive an organisation forward. Angus Ridgway, Co-Founder and CEO of Potentialife, discusses the findings

The old paradigm dictates that senior management are the only ones called leaders in a company. These days, attitudes are shifting, and many organisations instil a culture whereby each individual has the ability to be a leader in their own right, from top and middle management to workers on the front line. 

Various influences from around the world, such as off-shoring, outsourcing and remote working have transformed workplaces beyond recognition, making traditional corporate structures increasingly outdated.

The phenomenon of disaggregation is changing our work environments. Simultaneously, businesses and entire markets are in a state of fluidity and evolution, meaning there are no more stable organisational systems and narrow role definitions. In these environments, it is leadership attributes of individuals at all levels that increasingly drive organisational performance. The ability to unleash and maintain leadership at every level is becoming a real differentiator for organisations, and therefore presents an attractive opportunity for businesses.

Managers could previously tell their subordinates, "I want you to behave like this," - and this was a common part of leadership, the pushdown style. I would argue this was not leadership, but rather a form of organised compliance. However, in this new era of leadership we are observing individuals being empowered to realise their potential and to flourish, both in their own right and as part of their broader team.

Attitudes have shifted and things now move so quickly that businesses don't benefit from people who are leaders of change; they need people who are leaders in a state of permanent change. Businesses need to embrace this new era and 'set their people on fire', empowering them to be able to make great things happen, at every level of an organisation.

So how does an organisation go about activating leadership at every level?

Leadership development

Traditional forms of leadership development are simply no longer effective. Coaching offers impact but not scale, training can be delivered company-wide but fails to make a lasting change, and technology is often provided to employees who are not fully aware of its function or how best to use it, meaning it isn't conducive to behavioural change.

According to the author of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, most of the time change resulting from training doesn't seem to be sustained, which is why it is often called the Honeymoon Effect. Considering that more than $60bn was spent in North America alone on training, this is a sobering observation.

With this in mind, companies must consider a more bespoke approach to unlocking the leadership potential of its people that draws on the benefits of each approach.

Behavioural change

I would argue that it is broadly accepted that you cannot think your way to effective leadership. Similarly, you can't even study your way to embodying good leadership. And yet, our world is full of easy remedies, catchy lists and promises of quick wins. But behavioural science tells us a different story: people change their behaviours over time if they go through a very specific process of change that involves encountering new things, experimenting, making defining choices, overcoming obstacles and finally establishing rituals.

On this basis, businesses wishing to unleash the leadership qualities of its people, must implement a phased approach that enables people to explore their own way of working, break down barriers and adopt new attitudes and behaviours.

Leadership behaviours

Research by Potentialife investigated the latest scientific observations and thinking in leadership behaviours. Our question wasn't, what is a leader? But rather, it was, what exactly does a leader do?

The intention was to better understand the measurable behaviours that are common to great leadership styles. Five, key leadership categories emerged, which make up the components of SHARP: Strengths, Health, Absorption, Relationships, and Purpose. These are not the only ones that matter but they are certainly the most important.

The current business landscape, paired with consumer mass-adoption of technology such as smart phones and tablets, creates a highly fertile climate to drive measurable behavioural change in the workplace. Businesses today must embrace this new era, and understand that it takes many leaders, at all levels of a business, to drive an organisation forward.

If you would like an overview of how Potentialife works, you can sign up to one of their regular 30-minute webcasts by emailing contact@potentialife.com

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