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5 Ways to Encourage Your Employees to Lead

Leadership is about more than the person at the top. Here's how to get all of your employees to take on leadership roles.

Every organization needs a great leader charting the course--but you must have leaders within your company as well. Some of today’s most effective businesses encourage every one of their employees to take on leadership roles in their organizations. When employees throughout a business become leaders, decisions are made more quickly, customers are happier and tremendous amounts of time, energy and money can be saved. Here’s how.

1. Promote Teamwork Across Borders

Bust silo thinking by building cross-functional teams that cut across departmental boundaries to take full advantage of the ideas and expertise of all of your people. When you assign employees to these teams, encourage them to take on both formal and informal leadership roles, and reward them when they do it. This practice will also lead to improved communication throughout your organization, greater ability to capitalize on opportunities and better solutions to very difficult problems.

2. Be Generous With Information

Leaders, no matter what their position in the company, need a steady stream of information about your business, customers and markets to make good decisions. Instead of withholding information from your people, be free and transparent with it. This will give employees the information they need to confidently step into leadership roles as necessary, taking responsibility for achieving the goals of your organization.

3. Let Your Employees Make Decisions

Don’t just talk employee empowerment--really do employee empowerment. By giving employees at every level of your organization decision-making authority (including such things as determining what products will be designed and sold to customers, creating work schedules, hiring and firing), you will unleash a widespread desire on the part of employees to lead. Of course, not every employee will step up, but you may be surprised by how many do.

4. Be Passionate About Your Mission

Passion gives employees a compelling reason to undertake ambitious responsibilities and to step up to challenges as they occur. Create a strong sense of mission in your organization and ensure it is reflected in your company culture. Then seek out and hire people who resonate with and are excited by it, and provide ways for them to participate in this mission in any way they can.

5. Create Clear Roles

When employees are uncertain about what their roles are or what expectations you have for them, they are less likely to take the risk of stepping into positions of leadership. Creating clear roles is an essential precondition for employees who want to lead, so be sure to give them the firm footing they want and need by clearly spelling out their jobs and your expectations.

The most effective businesses today encourage every employee to take on leadership roles. Not only will this take some burden off of your shoulders, but your employees will happier, more engaged in your business and more effective.

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Last updated: Sep 10, 2013


While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest columns, and visit him anytime at

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