Scott Briscoe has an interview with Bill George in Associations Now regarding a new leadership book he has out titled True North. His comments resonate with the notion of “distributed leadership” that I wrote about earlier:

You know, there are leaders throughout organizations. It’s just no one is empowering them to lead. So if we can empower people at all levels to step up and lead, we’ll have more good leaders than we know what to do with.

Amen. But as I think about it, who’s going to argue with this point? It’s a sentence that makes you feel good and nod knowingly, thinking to yourself, “Note to self: I need to remember to empower everyone in my organization to lead tomorrow.”

But how do you do it? How do you literally give people the power to lead? I am sure there are several books to be written (and have been written) to answer that, but off the top of my head, here are some ideas to kick around:

Develop them. You have to give your people the time and money to learn more than they are learning just by doing their job (although it helps to actually ensure they learn while they are “just” doing their job too). Learning is power.

Make them feel safe. Doing the real work of leadership—at the exact moment it is required—often requires courage. So if you can create an environment where people feel safe (or at least more safe than is the standard), I think you’ll increase the chances that people will “step up and lead” as George said.

Give up power. Notice that you are “empowering” people. You are giving them power that they did not have before. So are you ready to give some power up? You don’t have to abdicate all authority, but if you really want leadership to thrive everywhere in your organization, I can almost guarantee you that you’ll need to change the way power is distributed and exercised. Maybe it’s not so much “giving up” power as it is changing the way you have and use power.

What else?

Jamie Notter