Centralized power and responsibility may seem inevitable in a work environment, but it is not necessarily optimal. Just as in a dictatorship or other top-heavy institution, the workplace benefits from having diverse leaders. A truly “good” leader is one who understands that anyone can and should be a leader and that the company or business benefits from sharing the leadership and diversifying ideas and input.
It takes a confident and well-adjusted leader to understand that one person (or even a small minority) should not be the holder of all the power, authority and responsibility in a company or business. This limits creativity and does NOT empower employees. Empowered employees are productive, happy and tend to stay put and the overall benefit to the company or business of having strong, diversified leadership is real.
Employees need to be empowered to not only do their jobs, but to make quick decisions on things that impact their work and to feel free to offer solutions to workplace problems. The old-school mentality that one person should be in charge and have that “buck stops here” toughness about them is antiquated. Instead, shared leadership result in a feeling of teamwork, support and strength. There is less of a tendency to blame or buck against the “system” if one is actually a contributing member or part of a functional system.
It is important to make sure that decision-making and problem-solving do not get murky when sharing responsibility. Make sure that employees have a clear understanding of how decisions get made, but allow for in-the-moment leadership whenever possible. Creating a culture where individuals can step up and contribute supports shared leadership and also allows individual employees to take ownership in the work. Instead of thwarting or punishing those who step forward, take risks and make changes, consider how you can support and encourage that sort of leadership. Even if mistakes are made, they can often be turned into learning experiences that contribute to forward progress.