Leaders within organizations are weighed down with many important responsibilities but one in particular is often overlooked though it carries the most weight when measuring leadership. This quality is being a present and active force on the front-line of their organization.
Leaders who remain aware of the happenings that transpire on the front line of their organization are able to better care for their business, employees, and customers.
This is a quality found within many small business owners by nature of their business and the type of leadership it requires for the organization to both survive and flourish.
The owner of a hot dog stand needs to know how to make hot dogs if ever an employee calls in sick and they need to step in. I have heard many different stories about businesses being brought to a halt because front-line employees call in sick or show up to work late and their managers do not know how to step into their shoes to insure that the operation is seamless.
The leader who actively participates in the front-line on a regular basis rather than an extraordinary basis is the one who truly shows active leadership.
They are actively engaging with their employees, better understanding the business, and reaffirming their understanding of their operation.
You can see these affirming moments and realizations happen in every single episode of Undercover Boss. These impressively successful heads of organizations blend into innocuous roles within their company to truly learn about their employees feelings.
By the end of the episode you see these heads of companies overwhelmed with the realities of life for many of their employees, though many also seize the chance to incorporate employee ideas to better their business.
Undercover Boss makes for great television but the true measure of leadership is not to be an undercover boss but rather one that is open and accessible to their front-line employees. They show that they know their business and that their operation and the people who make it successful every day matter to them.
Everyone loves a rags to riches story.
This is no truer than looking at corporate leadership. From mailroom clerk to CEO, the amount of top level executives to rise from within their organization is staggering. It also offers up a bigger question, are these individuals more likely to be active leaders? With a keen understanding of all facets of the organizations business I would cautiously guess yes. However, just because a leader rose internally through the company does not mean they are active leaders even if they are more likely to be. It really is a matter of whether the leader intentionally remains aware of the front-line or not.
Intentionality is the key piece to active leadership
Many will find themselves in a leadership position not on the merits of their skills but rather on the pockets they line with money and promises. It is this intentionality piece that will truly showcase the visionary leaders of our time- people like Steve jobs.
Leadership is a trait that is found in all, harvested by some, and championed by only a select few. Be intentional, understand all parts of your company, actively listen to your employees and in doing all of this make sure you are approachable. Now the leader of an organization with over 100,000 employees will not be able to meet with everyone.
However, CEOs have capitalized on technology in the likes of social media and other applications to outreach to their employees and provide that connection. It is the intentionality that differentiates them. That is what truly makes them active leaders.
Small business owners have a more direct route they can take to engage with their front-line employees. They can work by their side, have actual feedback conversations, and close the gap between leadership and front-line. Hierarchy has its place within management, but unnecessary restrictions and attitudes often end a business before it truly has a chance to get started.
I have learned that by remaining ever vigilant of what happens on the front-line, leaders are able to learn how to care for their employees better. When your employees like their work environment better it is only natural that they will do better at their job actively increasing your business.
It is up to each organization and its culture, however, to decide if they want an active intentional leader or they prefer one that is more passive and firm in traditions.
The way the world is evolving leadership, like the people who look to it, is evolving. Technology has changed the way working looks and feels. No longer is an office confined to a building in a particular area made up of employees who have also lived in that area their entire lives.
Now you can work remotely from home with colleagues from around the world. This type of growing landscape needs leaders who are actively seeking to be intentional in their communication and growth of the business. Active leadership is necessary for the 21st century business.