Leadership for individual contributors – part III

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jan 02

In our continuation of the series on personal leadership, I wanted to focus this post on both management responsibility and the individual contributor’s responsibility for building personal leadership.

In 1001 Ways, Bob Nelson notes that:

Today’s organizations cannot afford to employ workers who simply wait to be told what to do. If your business is to thrive in the coming years, it needs workers who are willing not only to take chances and to make decisions, but also to take actions and responsibilities for their actions.

Easily said, of course. The measure of a team, as well as an individual contributor, is the amount of value added delivery that is provided to the organization. But, you can’t have individual leadership with a manager who doesn’t believe in the value of the individual, nor can you have individual leadership with employees who don’t believe in the concept. As in most things, you need both in order to thrive.

Assuming the manager expects individual leadership, there are several values that the individual can learn that will help show the leadership capabilities. One is to be constantly learning about how the business really works. The processes, the value drivers, the way that money is made, and the key aspects of driving efficiency. Understanding how things work adds great capability to the individual that will enable leadership.

Another value is focus. Focus first on your first customer – your manager. Then focus on the tasks that will add the most value to your manager’s team, in spite of all the distractions of the day. Finally, delivery is paramount. Delivery overcomes a lot of imperfections.

I had a manager once that said that an employee should strive to build on their strengths such that their strengths totally overwhelmed their weaknesses. One can’t make the weaknesses go away. But make the strengths so strong that comparatively, the weaknesses don’t matter. It means knowing your capabilities and finding where you can fit in to maximize your capabilities.

Management must allow individual leadership to flourish. But individual contributors must build personal leadership capabilities and values. Doing both moves everyone ahead.

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