What does it mean to be a leader? Someone who leads others, right? Your company’s supervisors and managers certainly fit the bill, but the reality is that overseeing other employees isn’t a leadership prerequisite.

Every employee, from your greenest technician to your CEO, can be a leader if only they know how. While leadership training won’t turn followers into gurus, it will help them along the path. Here’s how your business can benefit from encouraging all employees to lead:

Leaders are Confident

When you’re a leader, you know what you know and, more importantly, know what you don’t know. It’s not embarrassing or indicative of failure to not know everything. A good leader knows her limitations but is confidant that the answer is available — and that a solution will be found.

Leaders Set an Example

Think about people you look up to. Are they all your bosses? Of course not. Some of those mentors likely have no authority over you or your career, but they do have traits that you respect. That’s true leadership. Think of the advantages to your business if all your employees show leadership qualities like integrity, hard work and dedication.

Leaders Learn

Followers count on someone else to do the learning and then simply follow instructions. Leaders seek out opportunities to learn and apply new things. When they see gaps in their own knowledge, they take it as an opportunity — not as a personal failure.

Leaders Take Responsibility

Fixing problems quickly is the nature of service work, and leaders make for great problem-solvers. They take accountability when, say, a customers’ critical machine goes down, and try to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.

Leaders Are Flexible

Leaders don’t have just one way to do things; they adjust as needed given the situation. There are often multiple solutions to a situation, and a leader is willing to try different solutions until they get it right. If the normal solution doesn’t work today, that doesn’t mean the problem is unsolvable. Nope. A leader finds another solution.

Is Every Employee — Realistically — a Potential Leader?

It does sound like something a cheesy junior high principal would say: “We’re all leaders here!” The reality is that some people are more naturally inclined towards leadership, while others struggle just to follow the leaders. But, with a little training and support, service leaders can encourage the entire team to add a little leadership to their workday.

Worried about leadership run amok? Sure, it can be hard for some managers to work with independent thinkers, but remind managers that good leaders don’t micro-manage unless absolutely necessary.

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.