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Imagine if every employee does what it takes to help his or her organization reach its goals, a place where everyone is a leader.
If chaos and confusion come to mind, think again! Spreading leadership and decision-making responsibilities liberates, inspires, and motivates everyone to achieve more and contribute the maximum-making a positive impact on both productivity and business results.
Step in, CLIMB(TM) up.
Based on a landmark study that involved 2,000 people across 450 organizations, Everyone A Leader explores the critical moments when employees at all levels step forward into leadership roles. The findings are summarized in five key strategies the authors call the CLIMB model of leadership effectiveness:
* Create a compelling future.
* Let the customer drive the organization.
* Involve every mind.
* Manage work horizontally.
* Build personal credibility.
Each chapter in this breakthrough book brings the CLIMB strategies to life with powerful first person stories and anecdotes that effectively highlight the small, often-overlooked turning points in an organization's daily life. Turning points made possible by grassroots leaders.
The CLIMB model's step-by-step tools for grassroots leaders build competencies such as presenting thoughts and ideas, listening proactively, giving recognition, managing priorities, turning conflict into collaboration, identifying and meeting unspoken customer needs, and many, many more.
No other book offers such compelling proof that-equipped with proper tools and support-everyone has the potential to be a leader and to make a difference. To remain agile and responsive in today's dynamic global marketplace, successful organizations recognize the critical need for greater flexibility, knowledge, and adaptability across the entire organization. To do so means everyone must learn to be a leader.
"Everyone A Leader explodes the myth that only people with official titles, big salaries, and high profiles mobilize others to get extraordinary things done. It makes the compelling case-backed by research and inviting anecdotes-that leaders emerge from all levels in all types of organizations. . . . You will learn how to make more of a difference once you've read and applied Everyone A Leader. This stellar book is not only a significant contribution to the field, it's also a rallying cry for all of us to leave a more lasting legacy." -Jim Kouzes, coauthor, The Leadership Challenge and Chairman, Tom Peters Group/Learning Systems.
"This work skillfully distills hundreds of observed experiences into a five-part strategic model, highlighting those behaviors most likely to produce successful leadership results. Both emerging and experienced leaders . . . can learn from Everyone A Leader. It offers a pragmatic roadmap for success!" -Major General Garry L. Parks, U.S. Marine Corps.
"Everyone A Leader is cause for rejoicing. The authors understand the key reality shaping today's organizations: leaders can emerge from anywhere. Their book is an invaluable tool . . . full of wise observations and practical advice." -Sally Helgesen, author, The Web of Inclusion.
"Everyone A Leader is a wonderfully actionable guide for creating a broad, take charge, leadership culture." -Ron Zemke, author, the Knock Your Socks Off Service series.
"If you want co-workers who are productive, satisfied, and willing to shoulder the responsibility of making your organization stronger, this timely and inspiring nuts-and-bolts account of democratic leadership is for you." -Meena Surie Wilson, PhD, Global Initiatives Group, Center for Creative Leadership.
"Finally, a leadership book for today's flat, dynamic, team-based organizations . . . This is the model." -Todd W. Arnold, Vice President, Customer Services, Cinergy Corp.
Because If You Don't, No One Will.
Create a Compelling Future.
Let the Customer Drive the Organization.
Involve Every Mind.
Manage Work Horizontally.
Build Credibility and Trust.
The Emotional Labor of Grassroots Leadership.
Tools: Grassroots Leadership Step by Step.
About the Authors.
(NOTE: The figures and/or tables mentioned in this sample chapter do not appear on the web version.)
Because If You Don't, No One Will
Being a leader in today's change-saturated organizations often feels more like picking your way through a torn-up land sprawl full of half-finished construction projects, where freeways end abruptly in midspan, and billboards advertising bright futures compete for your attention with road signs long out of date. As you go along, you see problems that need fixing and people who could possibly use some assistance. You wonder if you should keep moving or if you should stop and help. But then you ask yourself, "If I were to stop, what could I do? What should I do?"
This book provides a road map for people who aspire to leadership success in this new world. It describes a break-through model of grassroots leadership based on an analysis of hundreds of observed experiences of what people actually do when they lead. Made up of specific behaviors that you can learn, this grassroots model applies equally to those in formal management positions and to individual contributors with no positional authority-people who don't really think of themselves as leaders, yet who nevertheless seem to have leadership challenges forced upon them on almost a daily basis. Best observed and most effective in one-on-one and small-group interactions, this kind of leadership is nevertheless not for the faint of heart. It calls for someone with the skills of a salesperson, the credibility of a trusted friend, and occasionally the courage of a freedom fighter.
...At 2:30 in the afternoon Tony is facing a challenge he is not sure he is up for.
Tony used to think he was a product development engineer, but now he seems to be "attached" to the Customer Support Center pretty much full-time. He's been there on the phone all day answering customers' questions about one of the sophisticated monitoring systems his company manufactures. It's actually the system he helped design six years ago-the one that got handed off to another manufacturing line last year as part of a big cost-cutting consolidation, where it occupies a low-priority position in the new line's list of products. Not surprisingly, this product now has one of the poorest yield rates of any product in the company. It sometimes seems to Tony that everyone wishes the product would just go away.
Everyone except the customers. At the moment, Tony's on the phone with a salesman who's complaining that he's got six hot orders and can't get Manufacturing to commit to a firm ship date. "Come on, Tony," he wheedles. "Go over there and see if you can't light a fire under somebody."
"Like who? I don't even know half those guys any more."
"But they know you! You're the expert on this product!"
"Look," Tony replies, "as far as they're concerned, all this product has ever done is make them look bad. I've got no time to get in the middle of another fight with them."
"But I got six orders here! You've got to do something!"
"Me!? Why me?"
"Because if you don't," the salesman says, "there's no one who will."
As Tony trudges across the plant to the other line, he is not looking forward to the reception he'll get. He doesn't even know if this is something he should be spending his time on. Maybe he simply feels sorry for the salesman. Maybe he's got too much of himself invested in this product. Maybe the company is phasing it out. Tony has asked his boss in Product Development about the possibility but hasn't gotten a straight answer. Besides, Tony now spends so much time in the Support Center he hardly sees his boss any more....
New Opportunities for Leadership
Although the specifics may differ, the dilemma the salesman has dropped in Tony's lap is very much like the leadership challenges faced by all those men and women who are struggling today to make sense out of new ways of working, often in looser corporate configurations that have undefined, but not necessarily redefined, their jobs. They care about the organization, often very deeply. They've gotten the message about not resisting change, but how do they translate this into action? It's not that they don't see situations where their help seems needed; they see all too many. What they don't see is the support or the authority to intervene. Often, in fact, they run into just the opposite: inertia, covert (and overt) resistance, and messy interpersonal issues, none of which they feel equipped to handle.
The research on which this book is based cuts through this confusion by focusing on the concrete behaviors that were observed to produce leadership. It highlights what leadership actually looks like as it is practiced today, who the real leaders are, and where to concentrate your efforts to be a successful leader yourself. It was written for managers, nonmanagers, team leaders, project managers, and human resource professionals.
Seizing opportunities for grassroots leadership is not a risk-free proposition. Often ambiguous and poorly defined, such opportunities don't come with either a set of instructions from the boss or a promise of absolution if things turn out badly. To be successful, people often have to go outside their departments, as well as their comfort zones. They may need to call policies and procedures into question and force the people higher up in the organization to provide more information, to clarify issues, and to make difficult decisions.
If those opportunities are so challenging, why, then, are people pursuing them? Because they want to make their jobs, and other people's jobs, easier? Feel a strong sense of ownership? Need recognition? Seek advancement? Want to make an impact? Our research indicates it's for all of these reasons, and more. Sometimes, it's out of a heartfelt conviction that it's simply the right thing to do. And sometimes, as for Tony, it's because of a complex interplay of unexamined reasons that the salesman tapped into when he said, "Because if you don't, there's no one who will."
...Thinking as he walks along about what he's going to say to the operators, Tony knows that his strongest argument is the continuing customer demand for this product. After all, why is the company in business, if not to provide customers what they want and need? At the same time he realizes that the situation isn't quite so simple. For one thing, "his" product (which is still how he thinks of it) hasn't generated anything like the sales of its three companion monitoring systems, and it probably never will. So maybe moving the product to the new line was not simply to cut costs. Maybe there's a message there. Maybe the salesman's inability to interest anybody in filling his six orders is further handwriting on the wall. On the other hand, the sales force has always maintained that customers prefer to buy all four systems from one vendor, and that if the company discontinued this one system, it would lose sales of the other three. This being the case, as Tony would like to believe, it makes no sense to deep-six his product . . . does it?
Not for the first time Tony considers how much easier his life would be if the company's overall plans and goals were complete and consistent-and cascaded down (as the head of the plant is always saying) to his level. Instead of trying to read the corporate tea leaves, he'd know exactly where he stood, and how he should be spending his time. He remembers a period in the past when his boss could have guided him on these matters, but she's so overloaded these days she doesn't have the time. In fact, Tony has begun to wonder if, even with all the time in the world, she could help him.
In the back of his mind the suspicion is growing that the only way he's going to get answers is to force the issue in some way-although he's not sure how, or with whom. Who knows, this meeting he's about to have could be a step in that direction....
What Has Created These Grassroots Leadership Opportunities?
These opportunities have emerged as the result of far-reaching changes taking place in organizations throughout the world.
Increased Competition and More Demanding Customers
Better, faster, cheaper, newer. These are the standards organizations must meet to be competitive today-not just one or two or three of them, but all four. This is a tall order, and in the last decade, organizations have turned themselves inside out trying to reach these goals. Pity the organization that can't figure out how to simultaneously (1) stay ahead of the competition; (2) give its customers not only what they want, but also what they need-plus what they never thought of but will be totally dazzled by once they get it; and oh yes, also (3) make a profit.
A Loosening-Up of the Formal Organizational Structure
It has been clear for several years that the traditional organizational structure-the standard org chart (see Figure 1.1); the top-down chain of command; the well-defined responsibilities for executives, managers, and supervisors-doesn't work very well.
As the competitive need for "better, faster, cheaper, newer" pushed performance to its limits, a discrepancy was revealed between the traditional structure and how work actually gets done. Under such pressure, the traditional structure began to break down (Figure 1.2).
This push probably marked the moment at which your job, whether managerial or not, began to feel out of control. No longer did authority cascade down from the top until it reached you in a compact package of responsibilities that tied neatly into both the level above and the level below yours.
Today, more and more organizations have evolved into structures that resemble a fishnet (see Figure 1.3)-strong, resilient, structured in its way, but flexible enough to drastically change shape depending on the forces applied to it, and the changing goals and directions of the organization.
While you may appreciate the organizational need for such flexibility, if you are in a fishnet organization it is precisely this flexibility that can drive you crazy. Fishnet organizations still have relationships and hierarchies, but they are temporary, lasting only as long as a task requires them. The structure is constantly being redraped, so to speak, so that exactly the right components can come together to respond to specific and fast-changing business needs. Boundaries between the organization and the rest of the world are deliberately blurred so the organization can get as close as possible to customers, and also enter into outside partnerships and alliances. Although such flexibility may be necessary for business reasons, it can play havoc with your roles and responsibilities, and it offers little guidance about how to structure your contribution to the organization.
Fewer and Busier Managers
Another factor creating new leadership opportunities is the reduction in managerial ranks. Today, there are fewer managers and supervisors than there used to be, and those who are left have been given so many extra responsibilities and people to manage that they can't always carry out their traditional leadership duties. Besides, in today's organizations, there are so many cross-functional teams, so many off-site and outsourced activities, that managers don't have nearly the knowledge of or control over events they once did.
One duty that has fallen victim to this trend is the annual performance evaluation. Never a favorite among managers, in today's cross-functional, long-distance organization this mandated activity can seem truly anachronistic. Take the experience of a research manager, whom we can call Wendy, at a multidivision corporation. One of her direct reports, let's call him Leon, is a research analyst who works in another city. He has spent the last year on a cross-functional team developing standards and software guidelines for certain procedures common to all company divisions. Because Wendy is not involved with this project, she has virtually no direct information about the quality of his work. Yet, the company requires her to conduct an annual evaluation of his performance; Leon, for his part, wants and expects feedback on how he's doing.
In this dilemma lie the seeds of a leadership opportunity for members of Leon's team. Why shouldn't they step in and give him feedback about his performance? In fact, some people would say that feedback about Leon from his peers would probably be more accurate than Wendy's, even if she were managing this project from the office next door to his.
The Predominance of the Knowledge Worker
Information is one of an organization's most valuable assets; knowledge workers are the people who create, analyze, and use it. Knowledge workers are sometimes defined as people who don't make anything tangible. These days, however, even workers on the factory floor often use computers and other information-processing equipment. Knowledge workers today are everywhere-in manufacturing, design, finance, information services, customer service, and technical support. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1986 and 1996 the number of "professional specialty" workers increased by 34 percent, compared with a 19 percent increase in the number of workers in all occupations. Between 1996 and 2006, growth in this category is expected to outstrip total growth in all occupational areas by more than 15 percent.
As a knowledge worker, to some degree you probably share several common characteristics and patterns of work, which have contributed to the creation of new leadership opportunities. Often you work on your own. The work you do and the value you add can be hard to observe, because they involve thought and judgment. You may know more about your work than your manager does. You may feel a stronger allegiance to your academic discipline or field of expertise than to your organization. Finally, although you don't necessarily value management skills or want to move up to a management position, you may become involved in projects and project teams that require you to do management work.
Although knowledge workers tend to be self-managing, at least to the extent that they don't want or need daily supervision, they're not necessarily self-leading. They still need the leadership their managers once provided, even if they can't get it from their busy managers any more. They may need coaching to improve their performance. They may need periodic updates to understand how their work fits into changing organizational objectives.
A Growing Focus on Projects and Teams
You've probably noticed a shift in your organization away from managing routine, day-to-day activities toward managing projects. Projects present a raft of leadership challenges: project members from different departments, resources seldom under the direct control of a project manager, and reporting relationships that can create conflicts between project and departmental goals. In addition to project teams, many organizations today have reconfigured departments and work groups into permanent teams, ranging from hierarchical, business-as-usual groups to totally self-managed entities. These new configurations present opportunities for leadership within teams, between teams and the rest of the organization, and between teams and customers and the rest of the outside world.
...As Tony drives home that evening after his meeting with the operators on the other line, he realizes that although he still doesn't have answers to any of his big questions, at least a lot of little roadblocks came to light. He wrote them all down. One, the materials aren't being stored properly; no wonder they don't perform up to spec. Two, the line supervisor, who always gets so argumentative about having to change over the line for such a "piddling little run," doesn't really understand the process but has been too embarrassed to admit it. Three, several pallets sat on the receiving dock for two days before anyone noticed them. And so forth. Tony is surprised by the positive reception he got from the operators. Maybe he shouldn't have taken notes. Now they probably think he's going to get things straightened out for them....
What Does Leadership Look Like?
As more employees at every level find themselves, like Tony, almost forced to exercise leadership-the if-you-don't-no-one-will scenario-we at AchieveGlobal have sought to learn more about the skills and behaviors required in such cases, and about current patterns of leadership in general. As a worldwide training and consulting company, we provide training in the skills that help people lead more effectively at all organizational levels. We therefore asked, "How do the skills and behaviors required of people like Tony differ from those required of executives, managers, and other nominal leaders? Furthermore, what training will best prepare employees at every level to make the most of these emerging leadership opportunities?"
Before we raised these questions in 1995, most of our leadership research focused on formal leaders at the supervisory, managerial, and executive levels. In the early 1990s, for example, we undertook a study to identify the factors that promoted organizational change. We asked a cross section of executives in both successful and less successful U. S. and Canadian organizations to describe and rate their own success on 15 dimensions of organizational improvement, including productivity, cycle time, customer loyalty, profitability, employee retention, and market share. We compared responses from the successful with the less successful organizations. What emerged was a clear picture of what the successful executives did that made the difference.
We summarized these findings in five key strategies we called the CLIMBª model of executive effectiveness, which became the basis for much of our consulting work with executive teams. The CLIMB model describes the five leadership strategies that outstanding executives follow to ensure the success of an organizational change initiative:
Create a compelling future.
Let the customer drive the organization.
Involve every mind.
Manage work horizontally.
Build personal credibility.
Then, in 1995, we began the search for skills and behaviors that might help nonmanagers like Tony meet the less-structured leadership challenges of today's organization. We launched this wider search by analyzing over 100 leadership studies and scores of books on leadership. Our initial findings were, at best, inconclusive.
What We Asked
Think of a time within the past month when a person in your organization showed good (or poor) leadership. What did that person do that showed good (or poor) leadership? What was the result of this behavior? What was the person's position in your organization?
We simply asked our respondents to recall an incident and describe what happened as clearly as possible. Later, we sorted the incidents into categories based on the central behavior, purpose, or result described in each incident.
Our study engaged the full organizational hierarchy, from corporate executive officers (CEOs) and government executives to frontline employees in over 450 organizations (randomly chosen from growth sectors like manufacturing, high-tech, service, government, and education) in all major regions of the United States and Canada. Organizations ranged in size from fewer than 250 employees to over 10,000. The study produced 1,871 critical incidents-verbal snapshots, as it were-of what individuals in a range of roles and industries regarded as examples of leadership, or its absence. Researchers then analyzed the incidents for commonalities, sorted them into 120 larger categories of behavior, and combined closely related categories into 17 leadership competencies. Figure 1.4 illustrates that process.
A New Grassroots Model of Leadership
We believe that the leadership competencies we identified add up to a new grassroots model of leadership, derived from and appropriate to a range of roles at all organizational levels. The critical-incident approach allows us to define leadership based on the day-to-day actions of individuals, as described by other individuals, at every level of the organization. In that respect, this model differs from leadership models resting solely on the experiences and opinions of designated leaders, or on what experts say leaders should do. We call it a grassroots model of leadership because it's rooted in behaviors that can be performed by anyone regardless of position.
The following 17 competencies in the model add up to what leadership looks like:
1. Create and describe a vision.
2. Manage changes required to realize a vision.
3. Respond to identified customer needs.
4. Support individual effort.
5. Support team effort.
6. Share information.
7. Make decisions that solve problems.
8. Manage cross-functional processes.
9. Display technical skills.
10. Manage projects.
11. Manage time and resources.
12. Take initiative beyond job requirements.
13. Take responsibility for your own actions and the actions of your group.
14. Handle emotions in yourself and others.
15. Display professional ethics.
16. Show compassion.
17. Make credible presentations.
These competencies define leadership as behaviors-not as traits such as tenacity, for example, or integrity, which are often held to be key characteristics of effective leaders. The distinction between a behavior and a trait is important to anyone who wants to become a better leader. It's possible through study and practice to learn specific behaviors, like "share information," but acquiring a trait like "openness," for example, or "honesty" is a far more daunting task. We have found that the best way to acquire a trait is to learn the behaviors that express it. For this reason, the grassroots model is not only more reality-based than more theoretical constructs, it's also more learnable.
The Leader in Each of Us
Still, our research prompted a key question: Do we need a new summary model of leadership for nonmanagement staff, or will the CLIMB model serve to guide this group as well as executives? To answer that question, we enlisted both AchieveGlobal and outside researchers to review the critical incidents and the competencies through the lens of the CLIMB strategies. With strong agreement among independent researchers, we were able to associate each of the incidents and competencies with one of the five CLIMB strategies as follows:
CLIMB STRATEGY: Create a compelling future.
COMPETENCIES: Create and describe a vision.
Manage changes required to realize a vision.
CLIMB STRATEGY: Let the customer drive the organization.
COMPETENCIES: Respond to identified customer needs.
CLIMB STRATEGY: Involve every mind.
COMPETENCIES: Support individual effort.
Support team effort.
Make decisions that solve problems.
CLIMB STRATEGY: Manage work horizontally.
COMPETENCIES: Manage cross-functional processes.
Display technical skills.
Manage time and resources.
CLIMB STRATEGY: Build personal credibility.
COMPETENCIES: Take initiative beyond job requirements.
Take responsibility for your own actions and the actions of your group.
Handle emotions in yourself and others.
Display professional ethics.
Make credible presentations.
Because the critical incidents describe people at every level, the CLIMB model defines leadership not just for executives, but for every employee. Using CLIMB, it's possible to evaluate leadership using the very same criteria for the executive as for the frontline worker. More important, it's possible to improve leadership at all levels by training people in the competencies summarized in CLIMB.
In other words, there is a leader in each of us-if we master and apply the CLIMB strategies-whether we're president, sales manager, technician, or staff support person.
Other Key Findings
In addition to identifying the competencies of leadership, the critical-incident study produced the following key findings-some new, and some important affirmations of earlier thinking.
Organizations today cannot survive if leadership is limited to the CEOs, executives, and managers. Life moves too quickly, and top management is too removed from the action. As the incidents demonstrated, leadership opportunities can arise at any moment:
How the Book Is Organized
Each of the five main chapters of the book focuses on one of the five CLIMB strategies and covers:
1. Why it's important
2. Symptoms to watch for in your work group or organization that indicate the strategy is being badly executed or underexecuted
3. What you can do to carry it out successfully
4. Examples of how leaders at all organizational levels have applied it
5. Reference to specific tools and techniques to help you perform this strategy (see Tools: Grassroots Leadership Step by Step and the appendices)
The appendices also contain additional background on the AchieveGlobal research supporting this book, and in addition you'll find a bibliography of pertinent books and articles.
...The clock next to the bed says 2:00 A. M. Tony turns over and tries to go back to sleep, but his mind refuses to slow down. Forget about it, he tells himself. There's no way you can take those operators under your wing, absolutely no way. Five minutes later he gives up on sleeping and pads downstairs to see what's in the refrigerator. With considerable misgivings, he realizes he's in too far to back out now. Nobody cares as much as he does. It's not fair, he thinks. If work keeps you from sleeping, at least it ought to be your own work....
Grassroots Leadership Step by Step
Look Inside: How Good a Leader Are You? In the tools section on pages 129-132, you will find a leadership profile based on the five CLIMB strategies. Completing this self-evaluation will give you an idea of how you rate your own performance as a leader according to the criteria that the critical-incident study showed others will use to judge you.
From breakthrough research, AchieveGlobal has developed a new model of leadership that applies equally to managers and nonmanagers. The model emerges from, and is geared to, changes that have swept across organizations in the last decade: a loosening of structure, fewer and busier managers, more knowledge workers, and a growing focus on projects and teams. What makes it a grassroots model is the fact that it's based on a collection of hundreds of actual incidents-verbal snapshots-in which people at all organizational levels demonstrated behavior that was described by direct observers as leadership. From this research emerged a series of 17 leadership competencies-specific behaviors that anyone can learn to become a more effective leader at any level of the organization. Furthermore, these were found to correlate closely with AchieveGlobal's five CLIMB strategies for executive effectiveness.