We believe that Values Based Leaders have the potential to influence their organizations in amazing ways. When these leaders’ potential is unleashed, they do great work, support the success of others, and foster an environment that inspires more and more leaders to carry the organization forward. Development of leaders is an investment that can pay back huge dividends – but only if those leaders are recognized for what they bring to the table, only if they aren’t held back from making their greatest contribution.
In most organizations, there are unrecognized leaders who believe passionately in your mission, behave in consistent alignment with your values, and demonstrate your stated leadership competencies effectively… who are not seen because they don’t match the unstated expectations or norms of leadership. What might it mean for your organization if their leadership was unleashed?
In our last post on this topic, we addressed how this can be true for introverted leaders. After all, a recent study revealed that 96% of leaders and managers identify as extraverts. Do you recognize effective leadership from those who don’t?
Similarly, the 2019 Women in the Workplace study reported that three quarters of executive leadership positions in organizations are still held by men, despite slow but steady increases in female leadership over the last several decades. This means that the examples of successful leadership that most people have observed in their organizations, are most often examples of extraverted, male leaders… not to mention overwhelmingly white. Adding the dimension of race to that of gender sends the percentages in top leadership positions plummeting.
In her 2013 bestseller, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg encouraged women to be more assertive in advocating for themselves, and to see and claim their own place at the table. These are important messages – it’s hard for others to see something in us if we aren’t showing that we see it ourselves. But in recent comments, Michelle Obama struck a chord with many women when she declared, “It’s not always enough to lean in, because that s— doesn’t work all the time.”
So how can organizations effectively evaluate the potential impact of leaders, regardless of gender? And what might be possible if that leadership were unleashed to help them solve their most difficult challenges and to realize their greatest aspirations?
Start with this simple exercise:
- Make a list of all the characteristics that are shared by the majority of your organization’s most successful leaders. This list might include things like integrity and good communication skills, as well as things like educational background, race, gender, or personality style.
- Mark those characteristics that are directly linked with the success of your organization – these are most likely connected to your organizational values or the specific competencies that are needed in your industry.
- Next, circle the remaining items. These represent potential blind spots. Since most successful leaders in your organization possess these, strong associations may have formed that influence decisions on hiring and promotion.
Making your values and leadership competencies explicit in your organization is the first step to developing more successful leaders. But unless you also recognize that blind spots exist, you may miss out on exceptional leadership talent.
What will you do to unleash the leadership potential in your organization?