Imagine the scene - you spot the CEO's chauffeur-driven car pull into his parking place. You know he will enter the building via his private staircase, sit down in his hushed, elegant office to a cup of coffee out of a silver pot and get news of the day from his equally elegant PA. You know, because you visited him once. The welcome was good, the view fantastic, and the conversation about the new work challenge interesting, but you've never been back.
Rewind. You spot the CEO trying to find a place in the car park. Two days a week he takes his kid to school and so arrives late - always a mistake, parking-wise. He lands in the office and winds his way slowly to his desk against the far wall, chatting to people as he goes - checking up on last night's football with Peter, asking Susan how the parents' evening went, looking at a work problem with Jim. Finally, he sits down at his desk to plan the day. People pass by for a quick word - a problem or a good idea - which he fits in alongside the e-mail and phone messages before going to his first meeting.
Which would you prefer? The more traditional CEO of the ‘company royalty' type or the Great Company CEO who is part of the team? Clearly, much will depend on your own view of life and the way you are used to seeing authority. Habit expects the former; personal preference looks for the latter. Research shows the latter to be the more effective in terms of bottom-line figures - so not only is it good from a human perspective, it makes money.
There is something very different about these leaders, which can be summed up in one word: relationships. They are seen around the place - a far cry from the ‘royalty' CEO. They know their colleagues and care about them; they inspire, challenge, coach, and have fun. And most important of all, their behaviour matches their words. As a result, they build trust and loyalty - the basis of a great workplace.
Those with senior leadership positions must be able to see the bigger picture and develop appropriate vision and strategy that suits the overall business environment. But they cannot take this vision forward alone. Managers must also be ready to step up to leadership, interpreting the vision for their own area, spotting opportunities as they present themselves, and inspiring those they work with.
‘Leaderful' organisations understand that the opportunity for leader- ship can be picked up by anyone with the drive and enthusiasm to see it through. Creating the environment where people can use their initiative and make the most of their ideas is part of what makes for a great culture.
So as you read this, do not designate it as just for ‘them'. The leader at any one moment is just as likely to be you. Pay attention and cultivate leadership behaviour, and you will be ready when the chance presents itself.