South-Western - Management  
Leadership at All Levels Starts with a Conversation
Topic Leadership
Key Words Leadership, conversation, dialogue, vision
News Story

Businesses spend an inordinate amount of time trying to define what the term leader means to their organization. Instead of trying to define leadership, they should spend their time deciding what kind of leadership they need to help them achieve their highest vision.

Leadership at all levels requires getting the whole organization involved in a dialogue. Leadership training is important, but if a company sends its leaders to training and they come back to an environment that is not conducive to practicing the skills they have learned, the money and time have been wasted. When an organization takes the focus away from the cultivation of leaders and commits to creating the best culture, leadership at all levels becomes truly possible.

Individuals need to be talking across departments to understand the big picture of how the company works. Many companies get stuck in old habits and hold predictable meetings where the most senior people in the room give updates on their areas. The new conversation would emphasize dialogue and discovery. Breakthrough conversations could become the catalyst for change.

Creating a leadership mindset throughout the organization begins with setting the expectation that everyone is a leader. Those with a leadership mindset are: future-focused, inquisitive, influential, and constantly learning. They don't wait until senior management "names" them a leader. They assume they already are.

When leadership exists at all levels, it is a win-win for both the individual and the organization. Here are some keys for creating leadership at all levels: 1. Look for the leadership that already exists: people usually look for what is not working in order to fix it, instead change the focus to leverage the good that is already in place. 2. Encourage opportunities for leadership growth and learning: letting people do things "out of the norm" can give them confidence. 3. Keep the vision alive: Leaders keep the company's vision and its compelling goals alive and moving forward. 4. Connect leaders with other leaders: leaders help each other with issues by listening, providing feedback, and sharing ideas. 5. Bring the vision down to earth: Make sure that there are practical tactical actions individuals can take to bring the vision to life. Creating leadership at all levels involves a combination of reflection and action-reflecting on past strengths and acting to bring about what is needed in the future. Individual leadership development is important, but the real key to success lies in the conversations that shape the leadership culture.

Questions
1.

The author says that when a company takes the emphasis away from creating leaders and puts it instead on creating the best culture, they will find that leadership will naturally emerge. How would this happen? .

2.

Do some research in your textbook or on the Internet on Fiedler's Contingency Theory. Define this theory and then describe how this theory relates to the leadership ideas outlined in this article.

3.

The article describes how to create a leadership culture in an organization. What is a leadership culture? What are three characteristics that distinguish a leadership culture?

Source "Leadership at All Levels Starts with a Conversation," M World, Winter, 2006, pp.12-15.
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