The views expressed by the contributing Entrepreneurs are their own.
Leadership is about mindset, not a job title. And it is arguably the most important feature for the success of any company or organization. However, many managers seeking to fill entry-level positions often pass on candidates they deem to be “overfilled.” They do this for a variety of reasons, all of which seem at odds with creating the best company possible.
For every manager, there are countless employees. This is true in almost every profession. Professional sports teams are a great example of this process and represent something very similar to many companies. They have an owner. This owner is hiring a general manager. That general manager hires assistant managers, personnel and marketing managers, a coach, and so on. Each of these managers hires a staff and the head coach hires assistant coaches, trainers, etc. And players are hired in conjunction with the management and coaching staff to represent the organization on the field, as are employees hired to interface directly with customers. Even the players hire their own support staff.
Related: 3 Ways to Empower Everyone to Lead (And How to Do It)
How leadership appears at each level
It can be argued that customers, whether they are fans watching a sports team on television or in person or patrons going to a restaurant, are the most vital part of keeping a company viable. Without them, little to no money is made. However, interestingly enough, this most valuable cog in a company’s overall viability is most often associated with company representatives who, on paper, have the lowest leadership position.
However, if you look at the basic infrastructure of the most successful teams and companies in the world, the most important and most important leadership does not just come from the top down, but instead, it comes from every faction within the organization. And, in fact, top-level leadership generally has the least direct leadership impact on the majority of employees, let alone the customer base.
This shows several important points. First, entry-level employees play an important role in most companies. Second, almost every position in a company plays an important role. Finally, leadership can and should happen in all areas. All of this inevitably means that everyone must have the training, encouragement and expectation to lead in their respective roles.
Related: 6 Leadership Best Practices to Empower Your Workforce
Why you should encourage everyone to be a leader
While there is no doubt that there are natural born leaders, it is equally true that a leadership mindset can be cultivated. While this takes time and resources, the benefits to an organization are measurable. Take the example of the professional sports team. The players on the field represent the lowest level on the court in terms of decision makers on behalf of the team’s management structure. However, they arguably have the greatest influence on the perception of the team and the willingness of fans (customers) to invest their time and money.
At the most basic level, a player’s job is to perform his duty to the best of his ability. But does it help the team and the organization if they show up on time or early? Does it help if they sign autographs and interact with fans? Does it help if they have a great attitude and develop a great work ethic? These all represent leadership traits that affect the bottom line, yet the players are not in what would be considered a traditional leadership role when looking at a team’s managerial infrastructure.
Now take the cashier at the local grocery store. Their job is to execute transactions effectively and efficiently with minimal numerical error. The store manager may wander around a bit, but he certainly doesn’t interact directly with a fraction of the customers that the cashier does every day, so he has far less impact on the immediate lifeblood of the store’s financial success. However, we perceive the manager as a leader but not the treasurer. Does it matter if the cashier smiles, makes eye contact and greets every customer? Does it matter if the cashier is well behaved and helps with luggage if his lane is free? Of course!
Related: 4 Leadership Methods to Empower Employees and Build Strong Teams
And these things don’t just affect the bottom line of the store by creating happy and grateful customers, they are definitely leadership qualities that make an impact. The store owner, who is in the most powerful position, cannot have this kind of impact on the customer base. Neither does the store buyer, regional manager, general manager or store manager. In fact, every single position of authority above the till has less direct contact and less direct impact on the customer experience than the teller. And if the customer is happy, the store is doing well.
The point is simple: First, hire the best people possible. two, encourage everyone to be a leader; three, they recognize that a leader’s value, influence, and importance are not about their title or job title, but about the impact they can have on the people they work with.