First Posted August 3, 2009.
There is no leadership without initiative. It is where it starts.
The other day Seth Godin posted the following.
"I'm just here to learn."
Learning is fine. Listening is good. Consensus is natural.
But initiating is rare and valuable and essential. (my emphasis)
Last week I was sitting with a friend talking about a variety of subjects and I realized that I had crossed a threshold. I was no longer primarily a consumer of other people's content but a producer of my own. I now spend more of my time writing than I do reading others' writings. It was a good feeling.
The Circle of Impact developed from the realization that leadership begins with personal initiative.
Leaders take initiative to create impact with ideas, through relationships and in organizational structures.
What would it mean if everyone in an organization took leadership initiative?
Where you work, how many people genuinely take initiative beyond the work delegated to them to make a difference that matters in the work and life of the organziation?
What would it be like if only 10% of the organization leads and the rest follows?
What happens if you elevate that number to 25%?
Do you think the difference is tangible, measurable and meaningful?
Initiative doesn't have to be rare. All it takes is a person deciding that something that matters to them requires some kind of action to affirm it. That's all.
However, to get to that threshold, it requires the top level leadership to permitted, encourage, train for it and faciliate it. In large organization, in practical terms, this becomes a primary focus for middle managers and supervisors.
To do this requires a change of culture.
When a person takes personal initiative to fix a problem, right a wrong, innovate a process or establish a new performance level, that person is taking acton as an expression of their own inner character. Something within them is calling them to create change.
To take initiative is an act of vulnerability and exposure to criticism and retribution for stepping out of line. This is why it is important for senior leadership to establish a culture of permission and the boundaries for how initiative is to be expressed.
Leadership initiative is not limited to our work lives. In reality, what I see is that it is the initiative and the confidence gained through it in a private lives that teaches how we can do the same within our work environments.
When initiation becomes a natural and learned part of our lives, we begin to become producers of things that are valuable and essential. There is no waiting either. We can begin with our first step forward. So go and initiate and be a leader in the place where you are right now. And thank you for the difference that you will be making.