Of the many definitions of leadership, the one by Dr Brené Brown stands out to me:
A leader is anyone in your organisation who sees potential in themselves and others, and has the courage to connect them to that potential.
Leadership is not bestowed on people by virtue of their title or status.
We can all think of leaders we’ve known in our lives who have few leadership qualities. And we can all think of people we’ve had the privilege of working alongside, who without any title, have showed up in brave, inspiring and motivational ways, powerfully influencing those around them.
Leadership across the board is a responsibility. And helping people unlock hidden potential is a further responsibility.
It demands a commitment to growing your self-awareness, your courage and to paying attention to the people around you (at all levels).
To see the as yet unseen.
To listen to, connect with and surface the unspoken.
To sense where the opportunities to invite participation may lie.
To invite voice where it is silent.
As I write this, workplaces globally are experiencing unprecedented and extraordinarily challenging times.
This may sound like a cliché, but large scale validated surveys are highlighting that emotional intelligence is declining, wellbeing is sliding, and people are feeling less motivated and less optimistic.
All of which translates to declining employee engagement, loss of talent and cultures in struggle.
We’ve never had a greater need for courage, resilience, wellness and adaptability in our workplaces.
And every leader across your organisation has a part to play in unlocking and unleashing hidden potential in themselves, and in the people around them, to release and activate the energy it’s going to take for a different, more positive outcome.
As philosopher Eric Hoffer quotes:
“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Source: The True Believer
If you’re looking for ways to develop leadership that unlocks hidden potential across your culture, I have a few ideas you may like to consider:
1. Shake up your meetings:
- Invite different people to lead meetings
- Start meetings by saying that everyone present is invited to respectfully say what’s on their mind, and many perspectives are welcomed (and expected)
- Specifically ask for different perspectives: “That’s one viewpoint. Now let’s hear some dissent”
- Establish a ‘rule’ where no-one speaks twice until everyone speaks once
- Make it acceptable to respectfully interrupt if someone is dominating
- Acknowledge the respectful ‘challengers’ immediately’: “Thank you for speaking up”
- Establish a habit of checking in with every person after certain meetings, asking for specific feedback on what people would like to see ‘stop, start or continue’
2. Train every employee the skill set of having difficult conversations well:
- Frame curiosity as the skill set of the future, and acknowledge the person who asks a question rather than defaulting to ‘telling’
- Facilitate workshops where employees are taught Dr Brene Brown’s Rumble Language (curiosity sentence starters for hard conversations) and give them the opportunity to practice
- Grow a culture where surfacing problems is encouraged, at all levels, through respectful Rumbles
- Train your people in how to both give and receive feedback (without becoming defensive), and prioritize growing an ‘Ask for Feedback’ in the moment – on the go culture
- Train team leaders how to skillfully facilitate a Team Rumble
- Mentor junior employees who are searching for the confidence to address issues with their bosses, and give them the opportunity to role play hard conversations
- Create a space for ‘Lessons Learned’ after tough conversations that didn’t go so well : to model learner behaviour and an understanding that it’s OK to fail in a learning culture
As James Clear reminds us in his amazing book ‘Atomic Habits’, “we don’t rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of our systems.”
It’s the smaller habits that you focus on daily in your teams that will add up to have the greatest impact on your culture.
Start small, and embed some of my recommendations as daily rituals, and celebrate the impact you will see and feel when hidden potential is unlocked across your organization.