Every Employee is a Leader

Leadership training isn’t simply for executives anymore. Today it’s necessary to develop leadership qualities in every employee. Top-down leadership isn’t effective in business today: the changing nature of business emphasizes autonomy, collaboration, decision-making and investment on the part of each member of an organization.

Business today is characterized by independent work and mass collaboration. 1 Globalization has changed the way we work and the way business is conducted. Business has become a complex and collective endeavor. Many different types of people must work independently, contribute their specific expertise and work towards common goals.

Employees aren’t just followers anymore: they must be able to act independently and contribute to major decisions. 2 And in today’s working world, company values and individual values must jibe.  Employee motivation and productivity depends on whether or not employees are personally invested in their work. 3

That’s why coaching programs are so important. They can help each employee determine what’s important to them and what they can uniquely contribute to their work. Financial incentives are the least motivating in terms of employee satisfaction. 3 Training programs that foster autonomy, creativity and personal development helps each worker fully commit to an organization. When an employee feels that their work is personally and socially fulfilling, when they feel that they are valued and that they matter, when they feel as if there are opportunities for growth; productivity and profit improve.

Your employees are your most valuable asset and you want each person to feel a sense of ownership in your organization. Employees are often the people that have the most valuable insights into how to improve productivity and companies need to foster this kind of input.

Every employee needs to be “a leader in their own right.” 4 Leadership doesn’t just mean “being in charge” anymore. Business is too complex for any one leader or collection of executives to manage. Today’s business is about the combination of abilities, skills, talents and traits every employee brings to the table. Every employee operates within a sphere of influence in which they can motivate and inspire others. 4 Successful companies today develop leadership potential in all of their employees.

Walt Disney Company is an example of such a successful company. 5 The happy and skilled workers there have had access to an internationally recognized leadership program for more than 80 years. 5

Internal development is crucial to business success. Leadership programs help employees feel connected to the organization, they foster the spread of good ideas and they ease the chain of succession. 5 Rather than head-hunting for the next great leader, companies should look within their own ranks.

Disney’s programming coordinator Bruce Jones outlines how companies should create leadership development programs. 5

First: truly evaluate and clarify your vision and mission. When a company’s purported mission doesn’t fit their practices, employees find it hard to trust their employers or jump on the bandwagon. This step is also important because employees need to find harmony between their own values and that of their workplace. Such an evaluation can set your company and your employees on a transformative path, re-inspiring everyone.

Second: Provide leadership development for all employees and set goals for your company. Then you step back and see who has the drive and initiative to progress and who will benefit from more intensive training. More than 60 percent of Disney’s management staff has risen from the ranks. And leadership development is important for employee loyalty. They need to feel like they can progress even if there’s no immediate positions open. Workers will migrate to other jobs just for development opportunities.

Third: Walk the walk. Employees need to see company values in practice and they need to see real applications of the leadership development program. Disney shares success stories and considers itself a living laboratory. It shares both mistakes and successes to help employees understand what they do, what works, and why.

Fourth: The decentralized workforce in today’s business means that good relationships are key to cohesiveness and productivity yet most people aren’t well-versed in emotional intelligence. Such training can help everyone to communicate well and respect each other’s unique contributions to the organization.


1) Psychology Today: Reinventing Leadership in an Age of Collaboration http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201007/reinventing-leadership-in-age-collaboration

2)  Psychology Today: Leadership 101: How Leadership Has Changed in the Last Generation http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201003/leadership-101-how-leadership-has-changed-in-the-last-generation

3)  Psychology Today: Why Change Management Fails in Organizations http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201009/why-change-management-fails-in-organizations

4)  US Department of the Interior: Leadership Excellence http://www.ntc.blm.gov/leadership/leader_overview.html

5)  Inc: How to Create a Leadership Development Program http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/07/how-to-create-a-leadership-development-program.html