We see organizations shifting from the traditional top-to-bottom leadership model to a more distributed leadership style. More popularly known as shared leadership, this leadership model advocates the need to encourage leadership at all levels in the organization for it to thrive. Gone are the days when one all-knowing leader calls the shots. With the demands of the modern world, the reality is there is no single person who knows everything. You need various skills to get a product out the door.

Companies that make use of a more flat leadership model experience higher levels of employee engagement, reduced overhead costs and increased process efficiency. All these benefits translate to the products and services that end-customers enjoy. But how do you encourage leadership at all levels? What does it mean to implement shared leadership?

How to Encourage Leadership at All Levels

To encourage leadership we must think of how we can enable and empower those around us to become leaders themselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean for people to assume new roles or titles. Being a leader is having the drive to innovate, challenge the norm, continuously improve, and influence other people to do the same. Being a true leader is allowing others to become leaders in their respective rights and provide them with the opportunities to exercise their authority. This is the concept of shared leadership. If you’re an executive or a manager who wants to encourage leadership within your organization, here are 4 ways to do just that.

Foster Transparency

People can lead at their best if they have access to the right and truthful information. If you want to give your employees the authority to decide on important matters, they must have the information that’s pertinent to their project or task. Make documents easily accessible. Be honest and sincere in your dealings with them. This will show that you respect and trust your employees and will encourage them to reciprocate.

When it comes to sharing information, whether positive or negative, make sure to provide context. Providing context helps employees better understand what that piece of information means to them and the company as a whole. This also helps prevent over-speculation and unnecessary panic. Check our other article for more tips on practicing transparency to encourage leadership in your organization.

Share Authority

Sharing authority is much more than delegating. It’s establishing a sense of ownership within your team and allowing them to execute tasks the best way they know. It’s showing confidence in your employees’ ability to deliver. When people know that they’re trusted and believed upon, they will almost always step up to the plate. By sharing authority, you allow your employees to explore and discover what they’re capable of. With this, they’ll be more encouraged to actively contribute and come up with creative ways to solve problems in the organization.

Sharing authority means getting out of your employees’ way but carefully watching over them to support them when the time arises. When you share your authority to encourage leadership, make sure you’re giving your team the right tools for them to succeed. Listen to their ideas and give them advice. When you do this, your employees will feel that you’re one of them in the most authentic way possible.

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Encourage Feedback and Sharing of Ideas

A culture of shared leadership puts importance on open communication. Your employees are a great source of information. They’re the ones who do the work and are the ones best placed to say what works and what doesn’t. Just let them exercise their voice. Ideas and feedback don’t have to only come from upper management. It can come from everyone and it’s management’s responsibility to make sure these ideas and comments are heard.

Establish various channels for your employees to share feedback on projects and processes. Involve them in problem-solving. Make sure they’re comfortable bringing their ideas forward. Give them feedback and implement their ideas when possible.

Recognize Leadership Efforts

When people feel appreciated for their good efforts, you’re effectively encouraging them to continue what they’re doing. Not only that, but you’re inspiring others to do the same. To encourage leadership within your organization, make sure you reward and recognize acts of leadership. It doesn’t have to be costly. Praising your employee in front of her teammates, a gift certificate to your local store or a simple note on their desk can do wonders.

Make sure their leadership efforts are also highlighted in their performance review. Recognition doesn’t always have to come from managers. Encourage your teams to root for each other as well. Emphasizing collaboration over competition will enable your teams to work together to create bigger acts of leadership that the company will surely benefit from.

Implementing Shared Leadership with Kanban

You can explore using Kanban to encourage leadership in your organization. Kanban’s 4th basic principle says, “Encourage acts of leadership at all levels.” As an evolutionary lean management technique, Kanban emphasizes that leadership needs to be a collective effort if you want to achieve sustainable change.

At its core, Kanban empowers teams by making processes transparent and highlighting inefficiencies. Each team’s Kanban implementation is it’s own. They have the authority to manage it and the responsibility to improve it. Kanban boards help teams surface process problems that they need to solve together. They know that the success of one is the success of all and that the failure of one is the failure of the entire team. It’s this mindset that increases the team’s ownership over their Kanban practice.

Motivate Your People to Become Leaders

Being a leader may seem daunting. But if you highlight the small but impactful efforts each of your employees does that makes their work and output better, you can encourage their inner leadership potential to rise.

Implementing a shared leadership culture doesn’t take overnight. It takes commitment and alignment from all levels in your organization. By using Kanban, you can have a framework by which to foster transparency, establish shared authority, encourage feedback, and recognize improvements that your team does.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.