4 Ways to Spread Good Leadership


Your good leadership will automatically make others become leaders. If you define yourself as a leader, would you then: 1) Want others to do what you tell them? Or 2) Like others to be leaders, too?

If your answer is 1, maybe you are more like a Formal Leader, a traditional boss. Most leadership books are actually about how to make you a better Formal Leader. If your answer is 2, this is for you – but also for the Formal Leader who is open for a new perspective on leadership. The ultimate goal for you is actually to make others better leaders by improving your own leadership. The whole point of your leadership is to spread it and create virtuous circles. Think about that for a while and let it sink in.

Building a team of leaders is not just a possibility or an opportunity, it is something that you should make your goal to achieve. The great thing is you don’t have to educate people or tell them what to do – just take care of your own good leadership and it will spread automatically. Good leadership fast becomes a benefit for everybody. It is very contagious.

Good leadership spreads, and the same applies to bad leadership. What is bad leadership? One way of looking at this is to think that there is no bad or good leadership – only bad and good behaviour. If the behaviour is ‘good’ (whatever the frame of reference), it’s called leadership because it makes you into a role model. If the behaviour is ‘bad’ (measured by the same reference), it is simply bad because it triggers bad behaviour in others.

With this in mind, you will have a very different approach to your leadership. It will not be about leading, but by the sheer force of your conscious behaviour transferring leadership skills to others so they can lead themselves. The moment you realize that and actually start to reflect on your leadership and act as a leader, good things will happen.

You will notice why some things work, and others don’t. You will notice when you cheer people up, and when you piss them off. You will notice your strengths and your weaknesses. You will notice when you perform and deliver results and when you don’t.

Let’s look at a simple example of leadership. You get an angry email. How do you reply? Do you send an equally angry email back, or do you pick up the phone to sort it out? Angry emails can create destructive loops of misunderstandings and can perpetuate negative feelings. Once I stopped replying to angry emails and started to call or meet in person to sort it out instead, I gradually found that I didn’t get destructive emails from colleagues any more. Good practice, in the form of direct and non-confrontational communication, had spread, and replaced the bad practice of destructive communication.

An angry email isn’t necessarily a personal attack; it could be the result of someone having a bad day. By reacting in a humane and respectful way, you are able to address the problem behind the emotional outburst and also encourage the sender to feel safe in communicating with you directly and respectfully as well. Leadership is, ultimately, about compassion, and the ability to put yourself in others’ shoes.

To make the diffusion of leadership more hands-on, and encourage Mindset Leadership, there are at least four ways you can spread it and help create a culture of all-leadership.

1. Encourage an atmosphere where it’s expected that everyone is a leader. Be prepared to also explain and show what it means in practice. Refer to people as leaders. When I post on the company Intranet, I begin, ‘Good morning Leaders!’

2. Spread your good leadership by your actions. With a proactive mindset you lead in every situation and show how it’s done.

3.Offer tools and concepts for improving the leadership and invite people to forums where you discuss it. One of the best tools is feedback – inspire others to use it.

4. The Formal Leaders might have the formal authority in the organization, but you can give Mindset Leaders power by allocating resources to their ideas, acting on their beliefs and letting them run their own projects and be in charge. One of my favourite Mindset Leaders is Linda, who always takes the initiative to organize company parties, being the natural authority for that domain without any formal role. The golden rule, for both Formal and Mindset Leader, is to respect each other’s roles.