When we think of leadership, we tend to see it as the responsibility of the CEO or management team at the helm of a company.
However, the leadership decisions your employees make on a day-to-day basis – everyday leadership – are just as important to the success of your company as what happens in the C-suite.
What exactly is everyday leadership? You’ve probably heard it mentioned as a theme for World Quality Day, when businesses across the globe take a moment each year to celebrate their achievements and recognize leadership within their ranks. Although recognizing solid leadership is a great idea at any time throughout the year, everyday leadership extends far beyond a once-a-year date on the calendar. It’s something the most effective leaders get into the habit of practicing – wait for it – every single day.
Simply put, everyday leadership is when employees take intentional and daily action to foster better connection, communication and community within their organization, while working together toward one shared vision. And it’s something everyone in your company can (and should) do, from the CEO to middle management, all the way to the receptionist.
What everyday leadership looks like
You can see everyday leadership in action in the aforementioned receptionist who makes the extra effort to answer the phone with a pleasant tone. Even though she may be having a bad day, she finds the fortitude to power through and still bring a smile to someone else’s face.
Then there’s the charismatic manager who motivates employees to work seamlessly as a team. He makes sure they feel appreciated by having dinner delivered to the office when everyone has to work late on a last-minute request from the client.
Employees who exemplify everyday leadership are empowered to make decisions and are motivated to do their best. They also share these common traits:
They can quickly adapt to changing situations and don’t feel compelled to stick to a script, or the way things have always been done. They think outside the box and learn to embrace new ideas and concepts that may be outside their comfort zone. Everyday leaders understand that challenges and obstacles are all part of the personal growth and development process.
The customer service representative who takes extra time to thoroughly handle a client’s issue, even though she knows doing so may increase her average call time and count against her numbers, is a good example of adaptability.
2. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, includes the ability to recognize, understand and manage your own emotions. Equally important, it’s also the ability to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.
Since everyday leaders typically have a high EQ, they’re skilled at balancing the needs of their team and the company, and they understand the complex mix of feelings and emotions involved. They take time to listen to the concerns of their peers and share their own thoughts and feelings when appropriate.
Say, for example, a marketing manager notices his team has become unmotivated and uninspired due to a budget freeze that will eliminate annual raises. If he’s an everyday leader with a high EQ, he might institute a few employee perks that are free or low-cost but still make the workday more enjoyable. Things like casual Fridays and work-from-home Wednesdays can go a long way toward boosting morale.
Everyday leaders perform required day-to-day tasks while keeping an eye on the company’s guiding vision. They get the big picture and have a firm grasp on how their role (and everyone else’s, for that matter) contributes to it. They understand that, when everyone’s goals are aligned to the company’s broader goals, and everybody does their best to meet them, it’s a win for the entire organization.
A retail sales associate who exhibits the qualities of an everyday leader might go the extra mile to turn a bad customer experience around. If a sought-after item is out of stock, she’ll call every store in the area to find it, and have it shipped to the customer, even if she’s busy. Her vision is bigger than her current role. She wants to keep customers happy and do her part to keep the company growing.
Everyday leaders show up. That may sound overly simple. But in this day and age where everyone has more to do than time to do it, the simple act of being present and following through on commitments often distinguishes excellence from mediocrity. Everyday leaders are willing to get their hands dirty and do whatever it takes to get the job done, period.
Think of the school principal who’s there for every game, play, concert or fundraiser. This trait is especially important for those in top leadership positions. The higher up you are, the more people think you’re around because something is wrong. Everyday leaders check in with employees regularly to put them at ease and show their support.
5. Coaching ability
The talent to coach, instead of simply telling others what to do, is an essential trait of effective everyday leaders. They tailor how they inspire and encourage others to the individual moods and personalities of those around them. For example, using tangible rewards, such as trips to Cancun for hitting a sales goal, works well for some employees. In comparison, direct appeals for help, e.g., “I could really use your expertise on this project,” may work better with others.
Everyday leaders know the right strategy takes some tinkering. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for motivating employees and peers to do their best work and inspire others in the process.
So, how can you cultivate these qualities in your workforce and across your organization?
The most critical element is to model these behaviors yourself. For instance, if you find yourself not aligned with someone in your organization, communicate the issue respectfully and work toward a compromise, rather than letting any resentment fester and color future interactions. Having the courage to deal with tricky situations is a hallmark of everyday leadership.
The beauty of using this approach is that your employees will often begin to act on their own to practice these qualities themselves, without much prompting from you.
Benefits of everyday leadership
Cultivating a culture of everyday leadership takes work, but the benefits are many. Employee retention tops the list. People plant roots where they feel appreciated and are trusted to make important decisions that contribute to their company’s success. That means organizations spend less money on training, recruiting and onboarding.
Also, empowered employees are more committed. They’re more productive and tied into your company’s vision, and they become some of your company’s best ambassadors, spreading your company’s vision to their friends, family and entire network.
Clear benefits like these are why investing in everyday leadership is a smart decision. For more tips, download our free magazine, The Insperity Guide to Leadership and Management.