I’ve always believed that leadership is everyone’s business, whether that’s within our organizations, at home, in our children’s schools, nonprofits that we volunteer at or in the community-at-large. My personal philosophy is that true leaders are everyday people who can be extraordinary game changers to make society better.
Applying this to our organizational settings, we can nurture a culture for everyday leaders to thrive by encouraging employees to demonstrate their leadership through actions and behaviors. Titles and organizational structures often create barriers for employees to feel comfortable demonstrating leadership without formal authority, but CEOs have an opportunity to create an environment by:
1. Giving employees credit for their leadership — Be intentional and purposeful about identifying employees who are leading beyond their “job descriptions.” Examples might include: special projects or initiatives, coaching or volunteerism in the community. Share the information through social media as well as throughout your organization.
2. Celebrating how everyday leadership has impacted others — Be descriptive about how the everyday leadership exhibited by your employees has had an impact on your organization’s customers or employees. Also consider how the leadership reflects your organization’s vision and mission and share that.
3. Sharing your own stories — Be a storyteller and share your own personal stories of who some of the game changers have been in your career that have impacted your leadership. We have all experienced everyday leaders that left bold imprints in our lives with lessons that we have taken with us on our journeys.
We celebrate employees as game changers frequently at Lorain County Community College in recognition of their everyday leadership that demonstrates “Every Student Dream Matters.” This past year, I awarded more than 30 everyday leaders with a BIKE pin and card at pop-up events throughout our organization at various times.
The idea for the BIKE symbol evolved from one of our everyday leaders who as a student success coach, discovered that one of our new students didn’t have transportation. The student was going to have to walk several miles to college. Our student success coach arrived to the college the next morning with a bicycle that she was planning to sell at a garage sale. Instead, she contacted the student and provided him with the bicycle.
That inspirational act made a world of difference to the student and is one that may have an impact on his life. It is also a story that has been shared and modeled for others within our organization.
That leadership act inspired me to create the BIKE award. It now stands for Believe Inspire Kind Empower, all qualities of leaders and most especially, those who are game changers. ●
Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D., is president at Lorain County Community College