You don't need the title of "manager" to be a leader. Smart companies create opportunities for leaders, including leaders who don't have formal managerial authority.
One of the fascinating things I am starting to see within organizations that are deploying collaborative tools and strategies is the emergence of leaders. Traditionally, if you were to ask someone who a leader was at their company, they would name a manager or a senior executive. Most people confuse managers and leaders and automatically assume that someone in a position of power is a leader. That's not true. Just because you have power to exert doesn't make you a leader.
Any and every employee at these evolving "collaborative organizations" is given a voice and has the opportunity to become a leader in any number of topics. In one organization -- which has several hundred thousand employees -- I was told of an employee who has been at the company for a few years who has a greater following and internal blog readership than the CEO. I often hear of employees who become leaders within companies despite not holding managerial roles. The ability for employees to have a voice like this is amazing.
Jacob Morgan's The Collaboration Organization is a comprehensive strategy guide on how to use emerging collaboration strategies and technologies to solve business problems in the enterprise. It has been endorsed by the former CIO of the USA, CMO of SAP, CMO of Dell, CEO of TELUS, CEO of Unisys, and dozens of other business leaders from around the world.
Leaders aren't created by their authority; they are created by their ability to share their sense of "why" and their knowledge, passion and experience in a particular area. Leaders also are exceptional story tellers. Through social media and collaborative platforms employees now can offer the same things -- something that just was not possible before.
In traditional environments where employees typically don't have a voice, it is now possible for them to become recognized leaders among peers and coworkers. Leaders can come in all shapes and sizes and can be leaders on any topic. You might have an employee in the R&D department who is a leader of community outreach and social responsibility. There might be an employee in the marketing department who is a leader of work-life balance. You might even have an employee in the finance department who is a leader in health and fitness.
Your job function and role no longer determine the path you can take within a company or what you can be recognized for. Knowing this, why would any employee want to work for an organization where they don't have the opportunity to become a leader? They wouldn't.
The sad thing is that many organizations are focusing on creating managers and not enough on recognizing and cultivating these natural-born leaders. Every company in the world has leaders and most of these companies have no idea who they are. We have amazing people with amazing ideas sitting in our four walls but we're too busy stuck in a legacy mentality to recognize them.
Managers don't change the world or grow and build successful companies; leaders do. Do you know who your leaders are?
Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)