Many companies center around one leader or visionary. But is that always the smartest move?
While a passionate, reliable and knowledgeable CEO or founder is necessary, some businesses overlook the importance of nurturing mid-level leadership. Whether this means investing in management training for mid-level employees or assigning a group leader for an internship program, fostering a culture of leadership throughout all levels of an organization can be the key to creating happy employees and a stable company.
Indeed, a study by Harvard University showed that employees with leadership roles are less stressed than other employees, which can correlate with increased employee satisfaction and retention.
Also, establishing an environment which offers employees in various levels with leadership opportunities opens the floor for a much more collaborative workspace resulting in a place where employees aren’t afraid to discuss ideas with each other, and in doing so present stronger, more well-thought-out ideas to higher-level management. This collaboration can prove critical when informed business decisions need to be made, increasing the likelihood of feedback and input from employees at all levels.
That said, founders and people in C-suite positions may be reluctant to hand over the reins. There are many reasons why a company may be hesitant to dole out more leadership roles -- everything from a perceived lack of trustworthiness to the fear that leadership trainings or meetings could take away from an employee’s productivity. But if done correctly, the shift will propel, not sink, a company.
Here are a few ways to get started on the path to solid mid-level leadership within your own organization:
Throw out conventional wisdom. Keep an open mind and talk to your employees to get an understanding of how they currently view the company and where additional leadership would be most valuable. It may not be where you would have guessed.
Because employees may be fearful of stepping on any toes, anonymous surveys are a great tool to pull honest, open feedback.
Related: Leadership Is All About Balance
Provide small, temporary opportunities to lead. Even if you can’t provide multiple leadership opportunities within your organization right now, by giving mid-level employees the chance to manage a project or lead a small group for a task, you are providing them with the tools they need to lead in the future. This is also a great way to determine which people at any level have the skills and desire to be leaders.
Flatten the hierarchy. Create a more lateral structure by implementing practices that encourage mid-level employees to contribute ideas and solutions to company problems.
For example, hold a weekly or monthly meeting where team members of all levels discuss the biggest problems facing the organization. This flat, supportive structure provides the team with a closer sense of community and new leaders will naturally develop.