Looking for Leadership: any Ideas?

Coaching largely happens in conversations. Want to listen in on one?

In a coaching call this week I had a manager ask me, “How can I get more leadership qualities out of my staff? I know they have it in them, but I need some tips on releasing it.”

“Well, let’s talk about some of the ideas they have.”


“Yeah, ideas. What kind of suggestions are they making?”

“Umm, well, let’s see, I have to think about that for a moment.”

“Well, when you say ‘leadership qualities’ what kind of qualities are you looking for? What do you mean by leadership?”

“I want more independence and initiative. I want them to stop waiting for my direction all the time and just go for it.”

“Go for what?”

“Go for the things that will make us successful; you know, work better, cheaper, faster, smarter and all that good stuff. I know they have answers to our issues that are just as good as mine are, if not better.”

“So you need better ideas for how to get the work done, and more ideas on how to build and grow your business. You need ideas to infuse more energy and excitement into your staff. You want them to be braver, more self-assured, and go out on a limb sometimes, trusting in the ideas that they do have. You need ideas for Kulia i ka nu‘u, and climbing to higher levels of achievement. You need fresh ideas that will bring a new spark of life to your mission.”

“Exactly. Wow. I guess it is all about ideas, isn’t it.”

I think so. Let’s dig deeper into this.

“Aspiring to leadership is not a goal or quality reserved for those with title, position or power. Conversely, when you have been one to demonstrate your leadership, people take notice you have it, and those promotions of title, position and power will find you.”
—On Alaka‘i in Managing with Aloha page 169

Ideas and the potential for leadership

Leaders are those who live in the world of theories and experiments: They are constantly looking for innovation and a better way. They want an advantage and an edge, and they want to be the first to get it. They want to champion a cause or bring about change.

The leaders whom the rest of us choose to follow, are those who have been able to articulate their bright ideas for us, getting us just as excited about them as they are. They inspire us when we begin to see things through their eyes.

People assume initiative for leadership when they have a compelling vision of the future, and they have a very clear picture in their minds of what that better possibility looks like, sounds like, and feels like. An idea is the earliest, first glimpse they get of that picture in their mind’s eye.

The best way managers can begin to identify people with the potential for leadership in an organization is to make sure they nurture an environment for ideas to flourish.

How can you do that?

How about if we start a brainstorm on it? I’ll start, but I’m sure you’ve got some great ideas on this too :) I’d love to hear them.

Tending fertile ground for NEW IDEAS to seed, sprout, and grow

— Talk about ideas often. Big, small, half-baked or elaborate; talk about ideas and how much they intrigue you. Tell stories about them. Ask your staff to tell you stories they’ve heard about them.

— Be sure your company story is about the idea within your mission. Chances are that your business started because it was founded on somebody’s idea: what was it? Glamourize it by weaving a story around it — I am not saying to make something up: facts are boring, but the stories behind them are usually more entertaining and more memorable.

— Post quotations about ideas on bulletin boards. Add different ones in the signature lines of your internal emails (your staff doesn’t need the other signature stuff you include in emails that go outside the company). This has always been a favorite of mine, though I can’t remember who said it:

“Everything is impossible until the first guy does it.
At one time, we never thought we’d land on the moon.”

— Add monthly idea brainstorms to your staff meetings. When they start flying through the air, be ready to pounce on the good ones, thank the originator profusely, delegate and encourage: “Wow, I love that one: Would you see how far you can take it and enlist the help of others on the team?”

— When ideas are successful, be lavish with your appreciation and recognition.

— Let it be known throughout your organization that The Daily Five Minutes is a great time to hatch a new idea on you for some personal and instantaneous feedback.

— Let mistakes be cool, and make sure it is safe to fail.

Enough from me: what else? Comments are open for you, and we are all looking for more leadership, so share your ideas.

Related article: The Clear Leader in Fast Company, by Bill Breen on Marcus Buckingham.

H2_1Pedometer: 13,007
What’s this about?


  1. says

    You are absolutely correct, as usual, Rosa. I’d just like to add one other idea.
    Many managers say they want more initiative from their staff, then fail to give people any idea of what kind of actions will be seen as initiative and what will be seen as stepping outside what’s acceptable and “trying to do my (the manager’s job).”
    Nothing causes a swifter fall in people’s willingness to contribute themselves than the experience of trying to do so and being slapped down.
    Unless everyone has a clear idea of where the boundaries are, the only way to be safe is never to step outside the obvious. It’s just like raising a child. The best way to encourage growth and independence is to set clear boundaries and stick to them.

  2. says

    Excellent point Adrian, mahalo nui for the addition. The goal is to set people up for success, not for disappointment.

  3. says

    I would add that it has to be about execution, not just ideas. There are organizations in which ideas are welcomed and even developed to a certain extent, but never turn into products and sales.

  4. says

    Aloha David, I absolutely agree. The coaching conversation I shared is one I am still continuing with this manager, and we’ve been talking about the very execution you mention, where ideas become projects that are tied to strategic objectives, and results are measured for their effectiveness. As you suggest, that “effectiveness” is best when value is added, such as with new products and services.
    Hmmm… maybe fuel for another post another day!
    Mahalo for reading and commenting; welcome to our Ho’ohana Community.

  5. says

    Rapid Fire Learning for July ’08: Shift

    Rapid Fire Learning is in full swing at Joyful Jubilant Learning right now. Chris Owen of Pink Apple is hosting for us (Chris is an Aussie-based Relationship Specialist and blogger who shares her “Secrets to Successful Relating”): She has called