Early in my career, I was exposed to what I consider a very important leadership concept: Leadership comes from every chair. All businesses, large or small, have faced a multitude of challenges these past 18 months. The answers don’t always come from the top. In fact, often, they do not. That’s why I believe in leadership from every chair. Good ideas can come from everywhere, and more often than not, the answer is in the room. Empowering everyone on the team to feel valued means welcoming ideas, coming up with answers to problems or simply seeing a concept with fresh eyes. This can create value that is frequently overlooked.
I received a phone call the other day from an architectural firm I frequently work with seeking technical assistance with a design element for a new building they were working on. We discussed a few potential solutions, but none of them satisfied each requirement the architect was looking to achieve. I reached out to our internal engineering team for their input, but they too could only come up with a handful of options that fell short of the need. One of our newest team members overheard me on the phone discussing this problem, and took the initiative to speak up, sharing an idea that none of us thought of. Turns out, all of us were looking at what already existed in our product offerings versus looking at what we could create that not only worked but met each requirement the architect was looking for.
“Leadership is learning to let go and really empowering people at all levels of the organization and trusting them to do the right thing.” — Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google, Alphabet.
Creativity can also come from every chair. Creativity is not just for people who are blue sky “right brain” visionaries. Left brain analytical people often think they are not creative. And yet they are! Often their creativity comes in the form of connecting existing dots of knowledge or information and suddenly a whole new concept is born, or problem solved. Leveraging both your left AND right brain team members and encouraging them to create from their chairs; is a hidden jewel of leadership most leaders never realize in the everyday business of getting a job done!
When encouraging leadership from every chair, you are inviting your team to speak up, contribute and bring ideas forward, and empowering them bring ideas forward — even the crazy ones. Creating an inviting and welcoming culture is crucial. Every member of the team brings a different set of eyes, and experiences.
Leadership can be thought of in three ways: Leading yourself, leading your team and leading the organization. When title and rank are put aside, when solving problems or innovating new ways of working, you are truly building an inclusive culture within your workforce on multiple dimensions. Young talent want to know they can speak up and be heard, contribute and be a part of something larger than themselves.
So next time you’re pondering a problem or having a large group discussion with several team members trying to work through a solution, be encouraging, inviting and genuine in seeking input from every chair around the table. The feedback very well may just surprise you.