It is true that leadership does not have to be a formal title or position and that the healthiest organizations create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to be a leader. However, the ability for those without a title to lead is enhanced by the effectiveness of the formal leader.

We are very fortunate to see leaders (formal and informal) in action every single day. The most effective formal leaders are those who are willing and able to lead from multiple "seats" on the organizational bus.

We have all been told that it is critical to have the right people sitting in the right seats on the bus. Well, sometimes the leader needs to change seats in order to ensure a successful journey.

Leading from the driver's seat

It is the formal leader's responsibility to ensure the company arrives at the proper destination.

In this role, the leader must:

  • Understand in very clear terms what the destination looks like
  • Create a plan for how to reach the destination in the most efficient/effective manner
  • Watch for obstacles and make adjustments
  • Communicate progress to the rest of the bus

Recent example – Prior to a recent sales training we conducted with a brokerage, the CEO held a team meeting to remind them of where they were going as an organization, why that destination is critical for the brokerage and their clients, and to help them understand how the sales training was going to move them closer to their destination.

Take Away – Effective leaders constantly remind the team of their ultimate goal and help them see how changes introduced to the organization will ensure the successful recognition of the goal. They know the result will be greater buy-in.

Leading from a passenger's seat

It is the formal leader's responsibility to make it clear that, in the end, they are simply another part of the team, another passenger on the bus.

In this role, the leader must:

  • Demonstrate that they are on board and committed to the initiative
  • Empathize with the challenge of changing behaviors
  • Make it okay to fail (be uncomfortable) when trying something new
  • Lead by example

Recent Example – In another recent sales training class, the CEO was sitting next to a marketing intern. When it came time to role-play the sales process we were teaching, neither of them missed a beat. They turned to one another and both engaged as complete peers. They stumbled together, critiqued one another, laughed a bit, and, in the end, helped each other improve.

Take Away – Effective leaders make it okay to be uncomfortable and even fail when trying something new.

Leadership is critical, but it isn't anchored in place.

The most effectively led organizations create a culture that encourages everyone to be a leader. And, in the most effectively led organization, the formal leader(s) recognize that they must sometimes take a seat right beside (or maybe even behind) the rest of the team.


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