Some believe certain people are born leaders. Within this school of thought, leadership is an ability possessed by a select few, and people either have leadership skills or don’t. Others think the opposite, believing that anyone can become a leader if their abilities are properly fostered within a supportive environment. In my experience, both ideas are misguided because leadership relies on a combination of the two.
Many employees are natural leaders but may never get to fulfill their potential because the environments in which they work do not encourage their career path goals. Likewise, some people are not suited to a leadership role, regardless of how supportive or progressive their workplace is.
However, when individual leadership potential is harnessed in the right environment, businesses benefit from an increased number of effective leaders. Here’s how that looks:
No one should ever expect to coast to a leadership role. Supportive colleagues or a progressive company culture are no replacement for personal drive and ambition.
What this looks like in the workplace will vary. It might be the person who takes on tasks outside their comfort zone or anticipates and tackles problems before they arise. Alternatively, it might mean investing in gaining additional qualifications, regardless of whether their company covers the cost. An innate grit and determination to succeed is key to becoming a leader.
A sense of purpose
A sense of purpose is another key attribute that many successful leaders possess.
People need to look to mentors, watch leaders they admire, and consider how they could emulate them in their work and benefit their teams and the business. Leadership becomes much more achievable when it is backed by a genuine desire to achieve something.
The role of company culture
Even someone with all the right personal attributes is unlikely to progress quickly to a leadership role in a business with the wrong culture. Strictly hierarchical organizations with multiple management layers can significantly slow employees’ progress through the ranks, resulting in them looking for opportunities elsewhere.
One of the reasons I feel so fortunate to work at Stefanini – and why I’ve been able to progress here – is the flat structure we have in place.
While Stefanini employees still need to be prepared to speak up and share ideas to drive their career goals, they can rest assured that their input will be respected and appreciated.
Individual qualities need to combine with the right environment to unleash leadership potential. It takes the individual to have ideas in the first place, to speak out, to get feedback, and continue to pursue ways to improve the business. At the same time, it takes a company that’s willing to listen to the idea and a senior team that is approachable and engaged. Stefanini has established a collaboration ecosystem that allows us to draw on the broadest possible knowledge – collaborating with industry leaders, companies and universities – and this is reflected in our internal culture, with people at all levels and across the business encouraged to make their voice heard.
Team members with strong leadership ambitions and a high degree of self-confidence might be less reliant on the right company culture. Despite this, an empathetic and engaged senior team has an important role to play in encouraging less confident team members who still harbor significant leadership potential. The result is a leadership culture that benefits both the business and its employees.