What if everyone was a leader? Part 3: Supporting individual performance

Our series exploring the changing landscape of business leadership, and the emergence of distributed leadership as an effective model to enhance performance, continues in this latest instalment.

Here, we’ll be discussing how distributed leadership can provide real benefits for individual employees of staff within a business, ranging from a widening of people’s roles to develop important leadership skills, through to preparing individuals more thoroughly for their rise through the ranks.

How does distributed leadership differ from the norm?

In our previous articles, we explained how businesses today are faced with more complexity in their operations and volatility in markets than ever before, and in order to address these concerns a new approach to management and leadership structure is required.

This is where the distributed leadership model has stepped in to fill the gap, with this form of corporate structure making it clear to all employees that they should be stepping up to take on key decision-making roles as early in their career as possible.

It means that gone are the days of the top-down approach to leadership with a single company figurehead. Instead, organisations are now becoming much more fluid entities, with individuals at every level of the business expected to hold responsibility for supporting, communicating and directing each other.

Building trust and support at all levels

It may seem that this new model of leadership could interfere with the effective performance of teams, but in reality, by allowing individual team members to have a greater say in their own actions, distributed leadership can help to streamline operations.

Integral to the distributed leadership approach to management is instilling a sense of self-determination into staff, thereby ensuring they have a greater say in their own role and how it contributes to meeting organisational objectives. This could be something as simple as allowing team members to develop their own ways of working; as long as everyone understands how and why a decision has been made, this can promote far greater freedom to innovate and to achieve successful results.

It also means that teams can function in a more autonomous fashion, with a reduced need for constant supervision and a shift to simple workflow coordination – helping to reduce the pressures of leadership on more senior colleagues. Distributed leadership can therefore be an excellent tool for freeing up the resource and efforts of those individuals in more traditional leadership positions, helping to spread these benefits throughout the corporate structure.

Promoting greater responsibility to build success

Distributed leadership can also be a great way for businesses to better support new starters and less senior members of staff to take on key leadership positions in the future. This approach enables organisations to slowly build the key skills of these individuals to enable them to grasp the bigger picture of how their actions fit into the business as a whole.

It means that careers can more easily be planned out for individuals, ensuring they can see a clear path to progression that can lead to greater employee engagement and a sense of increased contribution, no matter their level of seniority. By ensuring every team member has greater responsibility for key decision-making, people can develop better relations with their peers and develop a stronger appreciation for what leadership actually means in practice.

Furthermore, the way in which companies enable staff to fulfil their potential through a less hierarchical approach to leadership decision-making means that new ideas and perspectives can more effectively come to the fore – thereby ensuring greater employee engagement and a stronger sense of purpose and contribution for all.

Now we understand how the implementation of a distributed leadership model can be highly beneficial for individuals within a business, our next and final instalment in this series will focus on the bigger picture of how this practice can deliver real and lasting benefits for organisations as a whole.

If you’ve missed any of the previous parts of this series, or if you’d like to learn more about the latest developments in the leadership arena, please visit our Primeast Insights page to find out more.

  • Russell Evans, Managing Director and CEO at Primeast