The Democratization of Leadership…

A big paradox for me over the years has been how organizations focus much of their efforts on developing leaders in the later career stages, than in the early years. We know that being a leader is about developing a mindset followed by a set of capabilities. We know development is a longer term learning process for an individual. Yet, as organizations we start late and then push for programs and processes, such as a one year program that must churn out able leaders at the end of it!

The other aspect that has also got me thinking is that today organizations seek and select leaders or those with potential. Do people really put their hand up? What if people decided they wanted to leaders, and embarked on the journey to be one, with little or minimal support from the organization. This would enable the organization to enlist these people based on their requirements.

The key aspect of the democratization of leadership is perhaps the idea that one is encouraged and allowed to start thinking about becoming a leader in their early career stages. It is a choice guided by personal will and effort. This would mean that if I decided to pursue a leadership role of any sort, it would be up to me to get there.

What are some of the shifts that would enable this approach to developing leaders:

Inspire your workforce about leadership: There is not greater inspiration than a role-model and there is no better message than a great story! Get young people to access and listen to leaders all the time in their early career years. Help them understand what it is to be a leader and what it takes to be there. Don’t be selective about access to leaders – be democratic.

Don’t focus on leadership skills, focus on learning skills:In the early years, enable people to understand more about how they can learn and develop themselves. Not through selective and one-time programs but through mass-access resources using technology and online communities. Those who have the drive and ambition will find their way, once you help them understand how.

Concentrate your time and resources on the early career years….strong business and technical leaders will be an outcome driven by people and not the business.