Traditional American images and ideals around leadership have predominantly followed a top-down model, most often exemplified by a pyramid-shaped corporate structure. In the 1970’s and 80’s, however, the world began to be heavily influenced by the wildly successful Toyota Production System (TPS). The TPS introduced, among other things, a new type of leadership model. In the Toyota Production System, from which any number of organizational methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean sprang, employees at all levels were given greater responsibility to create and implement important changes to protocols and procedures that directly affect their own departments or areas of expertise. These methodologies have worked their way into American organizations as diverse as healthcare and retail sales.
Good leadership development doesn’t just work to develop and establish good leadership at the top of a chain or pyramid but rather at all organizational levels. Recent research shows that developing as little as ten percent of your organization into effective leaders can help you reach the critical mass you need to create momentum. This can help you get your entire organization on board with new policies and procedures or even moving in the same direction towards important benchmarks and goals. The trick, however, is to get the right ten percent on board. Your best leaders are not always those that hold a certain title or position but rather those that have the most influence. Identifying your biggest influencers is the first step to developing your best leaders.
In the past, standard wisdom has dictated that the best way to get organizations moving in the right direction is to cultivate leaders at the top, who can then motivate and manage those coming up behind them. Current wisdom, however, dictates that having leaders spread throughout your organization can be far more effective than having them all clustered at the top. Leadership development takes time and does not happen overnight. Developing leaders is a far more in-depth process than just simply promoting them. Research also shows that it takes up to 6-9 months of intentional support for an individual to fully develop their leadership skills in a new position or else they run the risk of falling back into old subordinate patterns of behavior rather than those of a leader.