Is Leadership a Role or is it Something We Do?

Today, I had the rare chance to spend 2 hours with a senior leadership team of a global multinational company. We were discussing the large-scale transformation and disruption of their business that they are going through and how they struggle to motivate their teams to change.

In fact, they have tried many things already to develop a momentum of continuous improvement, they defined a measurable clear vision for the company, tracked the progress of their teams, trained them and removed roadblocks. They even incorporated change goals to each individuals’ year end rewards. Still, neither of these top-down actions from the leadership team were generating a significant impact.

As we played a simulation exercise around a lean improvement pattern called TOYOTA KATA (see Mike Rother), we experienced a sudden energy generated in the room. Each team was asked to achieve a shared vision of entering a world championship and winning the game with best timing results. After baselining the first attempt to complete the game in each team, they were asked to set their own mid-term goals of what they believed was an achievable interim target. Teams were asked to then run experiments to achieve this goal within 4 short rounds of 60 minutes. The simulation challenge generated surprising buy-in and motivation in each team, and everyone was contributing their best skills and abilities to achieve the shared goal in such a short time.

When the time for debrief arrived, we found out that each team have improved compared to their baseline, and many have exceeded their own self-defined mid-term goal. What was the reason for such universal energy and success?

A crisp, challenging and motivating purpose is more powerful than we think. When teams bought into the challenge and translated it to their own words and their own team goals, they created buy-in and confidence that they can achieve it. The mutual respect between team members enabled them to listen to each other, contribute their individual strengths and perform stronger as a cohesive team.

It was the individual moments of leadership each person showed during the simulation when they used their strengths that helped multiply the impact of their contributions.

So does leadership come from your job title and position? Or should leadership be more something we do when we contribute to a shared goal with our strengths and create value for each other?

Maybe we have found a way to transform our organisations by scaling leadership to all individuals and teams. I want You to act as a leader, because You Are one.

Many thanks to Simon for this quote