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Opinion: Status doesn’t dictate whether a person can lead


Leadership in an organisation does not need to come from only those with legitimate power. Put another way, what this means is that a person doesn’t need to possess a particular status within an organisation to be a leader. If you think of this from the perspective of an individual business, this can mean you have a group of people without any delineated leadership positions who are, nevertheless, unafraid to take on leadership. And to lead for all the right reasons at that. They will lead to build the business; to improve performance; to exceed customer expectations. For any organisation, this is an enormous advantage.


When you think about the differences between organisations now and those of, say, 40 or 50 years ago, there are huge distinctions. Society really is changing and employees are looking for wildly different things from the organisations they work for. People now want to show what they have and what they can do. They don’t need to be the Chief Executive to do this: they are already a leader. The problem, however, is that organisations often don’t groom this environment and they absolutely should.


If you think about a common definition of leadership, it revolves around influencing others to attain their goals. They have a responsibility, they are accountable for what they have to achieve, and they just get on and do it. In an organisation where this behaviour comes from all around its structure, there will be a greater overlap in the fabric between leaders and followers – in terms of their values, qualities and their technical skills. Then you can the fabric of that organisation and embrace that consistency, meaning that if a senior leader steps down suddenly, somebody else is already there and ready to step up from amongst that followership.


Some people might argue that that is a crazy proposition and that every organisation needs clear demarcation of roles. Of course, you must have accountability in any organisation, and it would be grossly unfair to ask an entry-level employee to be directly accountable to the chairman or board. But at the same time, can that person lead in the role they are performing? Absolutely.


This means allowing them to work on their own initiative, relying their own technical skills, and their own life experiences, and letting that shape the job they do to help the organisation become better at the things it does. To do this, you’ve got to create the right culture and the environment. If this is crafted so that it allows people to self-explore and self-express, and where it feels safe, creative, empowering and inspirational, then you’re providing a crucial safety net while allowing people to develop themselves.


Michael Castle, ADUKG Director
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