Anna Morrish talks us through the concept of 'expander leadership'.
More often than not it seems that the employees within a business join with hopes, goals and fresh ideas only to be faced with a manager that can single handedly crush these with a restrictive rulebook within a matter of weeks. The employee will stay, they will do what they are required to do within the boundaries of their job role and often there are no complaints from senior team members about their level of productivity; But they will no longer be a part of the driving force to the success of the business - man down.
Part of life is to grow as a person, we evolve with experience and add to our skillset every day; and in business we need to learn how to nurture these behaviours, encouraging talent and innovation. Too often, individuals that hold a position in management seem to fear their team members being better than them, too many believe that they are owed respect purely because of their position with the company hierarchy; this view is not only outdated, it is damaging – for the teams involved and ultimately for a business.
A manager that is purely focused on impeccable results will often strive for perfection and will not be afraid to condemn team members that aren’t delivering. Being criticised will chip away at confidence and creativity, staff will be unable to make decisions and will waste time and resources whilst waiting for confirmation for even the smallest of tasks. They may not have the intention of offending or upsetting those that work under them – they are ignorant to the negative impact that they are having on their team and the fact that they are impeding their ability to grow. When you take these behaviours out of the business context, it is suddenly clear to see the damage that they do – yet we seem to accept this autocratic management style between the hours of 9-5.
'Expander leadership' is not an entirely new concept: Robert Greenleaf wrote an essay titled 'The Servant as Leader' in 1970, where he discussed the sharing of power, and how it helps people to develop and perform highly. This notion has been pioneered by innovative start-ups and most famously, tech giant Google in recent years. Google is undoubtedly one of the world’s most powerful companies, it is also ranked the ‘world’s best place to work’ by Forbes and the one thing that they focus on isn’t results – its employee happiness.
Expander leaders deliver exceptional results, they do this by approaching their team members from a place of support and genuine care, and they learn what it is that motivates them to come to work each day, building relationships on a personal level and encouraging an open and honest environment. The smallest of gestures such as a company phone, a paid day off for parent’s with a sick child, or finishing an hour or two early on a Friday can have the most enormous impact on productivity. Where ‘managers’ see activities such as employee lunches as ‘perks’ and yet another expense, an 'expander' leader would see it not only as a way to strengthen team bonds, but as a strategic opportunity to discuss new creativity and innovation, and perhaps more importantly, way to harbour it within the company rather than great employees leaving to complete a new venture.
Handing back control to a member of team creates a confident, content and passionate asset to the business, capable of making decisions and motivated to meet deadlines. The mistake that many businesses make is asking staff to report on their achievements on a daily basis; this is a drain on resources and only serves to highlight issues that may be rectified the following day; an expander leader would approach from a different angle, a simple ‘how was your day?’ or 'is there anything I can help you with this week?’
This isn’t about paying lip service to the latest ‘management trend’, this is about cultivating a culture of leadership excellence over management acumen with behaviours that bleed into the rest of the workforce, creating stable, innovative teams that demonstrate high levels of both performance and engagement.
Expander leaders will drive business growth, whilst creating future expander leaders in the process, because they know that not only is this the key to future –proofing a business, it is a reflection on the qualities that they often possess; honesty, self-awareness and the ability to introspectively evaluate on a consistent basis, encouraging open feedback on their behaviours from those it has the biggest impact on.
In my work the rule book is encouraged to be thrown out as we concentrate on each other as people not as employees; we have yet to see the impact on profits, but the productivity levels have soared and the office environment is incredible and I would recommend that other businesses follow suite to see the difference it makes.
Anna Morrish blogs for The Cloud Simplified. The Cloud Simplified are a leading business within the Cloud Computing industry, offering high performance and specialist cloud computing platforms