Archive for inspiring leadership

Trickle-up Theory: 10 Ways Organizations Can Create Stronger Leaders

When a ship founders, blame rarely lies at the feet of the crew. True, a seaman may fail to properly secure a mooring line or spot a collision risk on the horizon, but ultimately it is the captain who is liable for keeping the vessel afloat and on course.

Just as managers are responsible for the poor performance of their team, a company is culpable for any weaknesses present in its leadership. Responsibility flows upward, and senior administrators need to employ smart strategies to keep their organizations from capsizing.

Here are 10 ways organizations can create stronger leaders:

  1. Avoid just-because promotions to management. Before transplanting employees from positions they are flourishing in, make sure they have the appropriate skills—and desire—to succeed in a leadership role. You can still reward employees for good work with a pay raise or more challenging job description—just make sure it’s well-suited to their strengths.
  2. Encourage managers to seek advice. Don’t cultivate a culture of fear, shame and ego but rather nurturing, humility and collegiality. Make sure managers feel comfortable approaching senior leaders about questions or problems.
  3. Invite a fresh perspective. Sometimes a pair of unfamiliar eyes combined with professional expertise can reshape a flabby company into a high-performance athlete. Consider bringing in an organizational consultant to gain clarity on your culture; develop your leadership; and assess and address barriers to performance. You can boost employee happiness, engagement and productivity by creating a positive organization.
  4. Provide training opportunities. Companies should offer ongoing training and professional development opportunities for leaders and staff alike. Creating an atmosphere of learning is a key way to enhance engagement while honing and deepening your team’s competencies.
  5. Strive for professional and personal growth. Senior administrators should not only be seeking to become their best selves through leadership coaching, but they should be encouraging their managers to do the same.
  6. Challenge folks. When people feel stuck in a routine, they quickly grow bored. Our brains thrive on stimulation, and that means constantly pushing at the edges of our existing skill sets and forging new neural pathways. Even those who fear change need a sense of challenge to propel them forward.
  7. Understand the difference between managing and leading. In the post Managing Stuff, Leading People, Senior Manager of Sales and Leadership Development Steve Keating articulates the difference between managing and leading: “When you’re talking to a manager you get the feeling that they are important; when you’re talking to a leader you get the feeling that you are important.” Leaders are acutely aware of their team members’ abilities, they care for them as individuals and they possess a grander vision, which they can communicate to others in ways that stir enthusiastic engagement.
  8. Mentor each other. Instead of assuming an autocratic demeanor, handing down performance targets like kingly decrees, senior leaders should take new managers under their wings, offering wisdom from the trenches as they rear up the next generation of trailblazers.
  9. Seek out strengths. Don’t focus on people’s weaknesses but rather their strengths. If some employees are faltering, figure out why and redefine their roles to capitalize on their talents. Take advantage of Strengths Finder and other resources such as an organizational development consultant to pinpoint and polish the gifts in each team member.
  10. Lead by inspiration. Great leaders model the leadership skills they would like their managers to exhibit. There is nothing less motivating than a hypocritical boss or more inspiring than a leader who authentically embodies the best that leaders can be.

Ready to Make Your Leadership Shine?

Contact Chris Cook at or 541.601.0114 to discuss how she can cultivate the gems at your company through organizational development consulting and leadership coaching.

How Important Is Leadership—Really?


Leaders define an organization. Leaders inspire employees to achieve terrific heights. Leaders make the difference between success and failure.… Or do they?

A recent survey of 1,000 employees suggests otherwise. Conducted by the Communications for Executive Council, the study reveals that employees value connection with their fellow employees over big-personality leaders—1.6 times more, to be exact.

Tools and resources won out over charismatic leadership for 75 percent of those surveyed. Just under a quarter of the group (24 percent) were inspired by their leaders, and only 31 percent felt the leadership respected their opinions. As few as 29 percent said leaders shared the reasoning behind their decision making with workers.

Employees who adore their organization perform better than the lukewarm … don’t they? Wrong again. There is little perceivable difference in the performance of employees who sort of like your organization and those who love it. Even building pride in an organization fails to raise productivity levels.

It is only when employees feel connected with and supported by their coworkers that researchers observe a noticeable difference in their performance. Building a stronger interpersonal network encourages employees to learn from and consult each other when they hit a stumbling block. They feel buoyed rather than threatened by their peers, and this connectedness sets the stage for a more productive work environment.

A survey echoed these findings across the pond. For 70 percent of the 1,000 UK employees surveyed, the number one factor contributing to job happiness was workplace friendships.

Those of us familiar with Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness are not surprised. Even though the Zappos founder is an iconic example of inspirational leadership, he recognizes that happiness is found not within a single person but in the spaces between them (see Chapter 7, p. 34). The cultural fabric of an organization emerges from the overlapping intersections of the warp and woof, not the individual thread.

But that’s not to say leaders are insignificant. Leadership style matters. Those leaders who encourage employees to connect, share resources, and participate in the decision making process have a 1.6 times greater impact on the bottom line than cult-of-personality leaders.

A little less ra ra ra and a little more kumbaya may well be the key to organizational success. Happiness researchers know friendships play a key role in employee engagement, which in turn influences performance. Indeed, that is one of Zappos’ secret weapons—by consistently hiring employees who already share their core values, Zappos cultivates an organic culture with deep, interlocking roots rather than manufacturing an astroturf one.

Do these findings jibe with your experiences, whether as a leader or an employee? Have you felt the difference between a workplace where you were closely connected with your peers and one that centered around a magnetic personality? Which environment felt happier—and more productive?