Few people contemplate the power of an organization that is built on leadership. We often see leadership displayed by a handful of people within an organization. We rarely see organizations built on leadership. Building your organization on the backs of leaders is what I call the building blocks of leadership.
Truly effective organizations have leaders at every echelon of the organization. Just like in the game Jenga, the most stable the tower of blocks will be is at the beginning when all the blocks are in place. Those blocks are leaders. The minute you start removing the blocks, the tower becomes less stable.
It is probable that every organization will have its share of non-leaders, or worse, toxic leaders, but leaders who build a culture of leadership from top to bottom will reap rewards. The culture will be effective and efficient. The people will enjoy the climate and be reluctant to leave. Litigation and accusations of wrongdoing will dissipate. It will likely be an optimum working environment, even during challenging times.
I have had the opportunity to experience organizations with blocks missing. These are organizations that had leadership inhibitors throughout the organization. It doesn’t take that many to have adverse effects, even on those strong leaders within the organization. As an example, I witnessed a strong leader completely stifled by his boss. The boss was a toxic and narcissistic person who could not be depended on to support the strong leader employee. As the leader navigated difficult waters with unions and work issues demonstrating great vision and passion, he was often undermined by a lack of support by the boss. The resulting effect was that the strong leader made like a turtle and duck and covered. There ended the proactive display by the leader and the leadership culture and climate was undermined.
With this in mind, leaders should always be mindful of how their leadership (or lack thereof) is affecting the leadership climate within the organization. They should focus on continuously building leaders from the ground up, lookout for people who are pulling out the building blocks of the tower and intervene. They should also consider what toxic leadership does to the leaders within the organization beyond just stifling the leader. In the above case, the strong leader isolated. Alternatively, the leader may have spoken out or found a way to press forward. Ultimately, however, the leader might not choose to stay with the organization after numerous similar occurrences.
When you are building your organization, remember the building blocks of leadership. Ensure you are developing leaders at every echelon. Be on watch for toxic leadership within the tower and address it immediately. Finally, ensure the leaders within the block tower feel empowered, trusted, and safe to demonstrate leadership.