How to Empower the Leader in Every Single Employee

Floyd Woodrow DCM MBE, Founder and CEO of Quantum Group, reflects on the things every CEO needs to do to inspire the leader in all employees.

Every successful team needs to have a capable leader at its head. I’ve worked in many different organisations and industries – from the SAS to energy to FinTech – and the one thing that I’ve seen in every single one is that the quality of the leadership is reflected in the quality of the team, and vice versa.

While no team can perform at its optimum without a strong leader, I would go so far as to say that the more leaders you have in a team, the better. There’s no use in everyone following a single leading light, because what happens if that light goes out for any reason? And of course, all leaders must know when they need to follow.

The first stage of building a successful team involves picking the right people for each role. Obviously, you can’t employ proven leaders in every position – no matter how flat your structure, this would make the organisation top-heavy – but you should be looking for people with leadership potential. In my experience, it’s very difficult to divine this potential from a CV or LinkedIn profile. You need to meet them, and really dig into what they are like as a person before you can place your trust in them. Selection is key and often done poorly.

Trust is, of course, paramount. You cannot watch everyone at all times to check up on what they’re doing – if you did, then you would have no time for anything else – so you need to give each employee personal responsibility for their actions, as well as the support they need to make the right choices. They must be a leader, even if it is only themselves that they are leading. Remember trust is not about like. It is about delivery.

When training your future or current leaders, it is very important that the playing field should be completely level.

Having leaders at every level is the key to elite performance in a business. Some people are born leaders, but those who aren’t can still realise their leadership potential. There’s a particular approach that I take to leadership training that has worked in every arena I’ve been involved in – the military, technology, education and elite sports – and the principles are very simple.

These principles are based around the points of the compass. To the north, there is the Super North Star. Leadership centres on an individual’s sense of purpose. We can, of course, have more than one purpose, thinking about ourselves on a personal, social and professional level, but let’s focus on the professional aspect here. Working out our direction in life isn’t a simple process, and our imagination is often limited by the sense of worldly realism that every adult develops, but the starting point when it comes to developing leaders is to ask the subject to think about what it is they want to achieve in their career, what does a good legacy look like? This may require some work to precisely define, and it must be compatible with the objectives and direction of the organisation or this journey is not for them.

Once the goal has been established, the next step is to work out how to best get there. At the south of our compass is the strategy – the process by which your leader can find their path, making a clear plan based on factual evidence and analysis. There need to be clear milestones and contingencies, but most of all your leader needs to be able to communicate this plan clearly. Again, it must also chime in with the strategy of the business.

A strong code of ethics lies at the east point of the compass. It is essential that your organisation has an ethical, cohesive and values-driven culture and that every member of your team adheres to it. There should be just as much emphasis placed on the way the organisation reaches its goals as reaching the goals themselves, and this needs to be applied on both a macro and micro scale. Provide your leaders with everything they need to fully understand this code of conduct.

At the west of the compass is the warrior – the skills and qualities that an individual needs to develop the strength of character as well as the mental and physical resilience to reach their goals. A great deal of emphasis needs to be placed on developing your leader into a warrior, so they can reach every milestone whether they have to lead the way themselves or support their fellow team members.

When training your future or current leaders, it is very important that the playing field should be completely level. There’s no room for patronising or belittling people; whether they are a child or adult, a recent graduate or industry veteran, you should talk to them in exactly the same way. It’s also vital that you give them a chance to speak and that you listen very closely to everything they have to say. Identify their needs and provide exactly what is required. Only then can you truly bring out the leader in each and every employee.

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