I read a lot about leadership principles for managers. In most cases, the books and articles I look at refer to the responsibility of the CEO or upper-level manager. Clearly, employees turn to their managers for leadership, however often other folks crop up as leaders of many of the important intangibles within a company. For example, whenever a happy hour is organized, you can be sure the same few people are leading the charge. People follow them not only because they know the way to the bar, but because they’re the ones putting forth the effort to socialize with team.
The intangibles, I feel, are what sets Red Door Interactive apart from a lot of other small organizations. Provided we and our competitors have vision, passion and the ability to execute, there are elements such as brand voice, social responsibility, morale and culture and other aspects that make the company “who we are.” That can only happen through leadership at every level of our company. We have a project manager who inspires passion in others to join a cause, we have a designer who organizes all-company lunches or we have a programmer who kicks up the music in the office when it is time for a beat. They are not managers, but others, including managers, turn to these people consistently for that guidance, inspiration and direction (which are critical leadership qualities).
Over the years, I’ve come to fully appreciate the leadership roles others hold at Red Door Interactive, and think other CEOs may fare well by cultivating and supporting them in their own organization. There are a few things I’ve found helpful in developing such people, and I offer them here for reflection and discussion:
– Leaders are at all levels of the company: When I speak of helping people take on influential roles of our company, most assume I’m referring to my direct reports; those responsible for one or more of Red Door Interactive’s business units. That’s only partially true. In fact, I’ve found that depending on the circumstances, virtually anyone can be a leader given the right scenario. The key for me is to identify those with potential and desire and then help them grow in those specific instances.
– Leadership needs direction: Some people are inspired to take action when they feel they can make a difference. My responsibility is to help make that leadership productive, consistent with company values and that it supports our mission. This requires up-front and continual (often repetitive) communication about the priorities and values of the company to internal and external stakeholders.
– Leaders have strong opinions: If possible, I try to get feedback on strategic ideas or other company-related initiatives with key folks in the company before putting them into effect. That’s because I realize that employees will look to them for their buy-in on a new idea or policy before they commit themselves. If I don’t have their support, I may find it difficult to get everyone else’s.
– Be supportive, not directive: As Red Door Interactive has grown, I’ve learned to delegate (which is another subject altogether). eThat means when fellow leaders come to ask me a question, often times they’re just looking for a “sanity check,” and not for someone else to make the call. must be careful not to be too authoritative because it will only stifle creativity and growth.
– Hire both leaders and role players: We’ve been fortunate enough to grow in double digits for several consecutive years now, and that means bringing additional team members aboard. I’ve found myself selecting new employees for their leadership potential, general intelligence as well as the skills sets needed to do their specific jobs. Doing so pays big dividends in the long run.
I still take responsibility for the company’s performance, but the only way we can remain on the same growing trajectory we’ve experienced over the last several years is to hand over a lot of areas of leadership to others. I take into account the perspectives of those who have assumed leadership roles at Red Door Interactive, and look for their input, ideas and buy-in before we set a plan in motion. And, more importantly, I look to them to enact plans and ideas of their own. Supporting others to spearhead those areas will ensure our success for years to come – and that’s good for everyone!