“Let’s not just talk about our company values, let’s put them into action. Let’s not just memorize them, let’s live them.” Ron Kendrick as quoted in Everyone Leads: It Takes Each One of Us to Make a Difference compiled by Dan Zadra
Recently in a workshop, a participant wondered why her department’s leadership team was comprised only of people with the top titles. Her point was that there were administrative assistants in the department who had good ideas so why not include them.
Her question points out the important difference between leadership and role or position. In most organizations, there is a group which may be called the leadership team or the executive council, or the cabinet. But no matter the name, the group is composed of the people with the top titles who are charged with the responsibility of running the organization. If the organization is a strong one, that group is also composed mostly of leaders. And, in the best situations the leadership group understands there are other leaders in the organizations and fosters and supports leadership in all its facets.
The hard reality is that it is just not possible for people from all levels to serve on the formal leadership team, whatever it is called. The people who serve on the formal leadership team have specific responsibilities to the organization that can not be shared. Sometimes this is a matter of law, sometimes of internal regulations and sometimes it is simply a matter of practicality. Conversely, there are leadership issues that would benefit from the widest possible input and are appropriate for the inclusion of people from all levels of the organization. When that is that case, there is an opportunity for different kinds of leadership teams.
But what if your organization doesn’t create these kinds of leadership teams? I still think there is a way for everyone in an organization to start exercising leadership today. Look at your organization’s stated values. There are values for both the larger organization and for your specific department. Take some time to really study those values and think about how they apply to your work and the ways you interact with everyone. Now, start living them – all day, every day, in everything you do. Do your best to make every task, every conversation, each interaction, every question you ask in line with those values. Be intentional about it and, when appropriate, talk about it. If these are the true values of your organization, you will be exercising leadership and over time it will make a difference and be recognized.
If, as can happen, the lived values are different than the espoused values, that will become clear. Or you may begin to see that your personal values don’t match the organizational values. In those cases you may face some hard choices if you want to be a leader in your work organization. You may have to find another organization in which to lead.
However, in my experience, even though we don’t all hit the value standard perfectly every time, trying to live up to the values of a successful organization is an effective way to become a leader. So, don’t wait to be acting on your values and those of the organization and leadership will happen.