Is leadership everyone’s job? Initial findings

28 April 2016

Is leadership everyone’s job? Initial findings

Dr Bernd Vogel  and Dr Ana Graca of the Henley Centre for Engaging Leadership share their initial findings in exploring the idea that leadership is everyones job.

By Dr Bernd Vogel  & Dr Ana Graca, Henley Centre for Engaging Leadership

The Henley Centre for Engaging Leadership (HCEL) sees leadership as a multifaceted concept and practice. Engaging leadership is relational and interactive. It is receptive to context and is about purpose. Being multidirectional, engaging leadership requires a collective capacity as much as it does an individual capacity for energy, innovation and change.

One implication is that the many and not the few are involved in leadership processes. Some push towards the idea that ‘Leadership is everyone’s job!’. We wanted to learn more. Within a bigger study about ‘Exploring notions of leadership in South Africa and the African continent’, a collaboration between HCEL’s Bernd Vogel, Ana Graça, and Lebene Soga, together with Jon Foster-Pedley and Adri Drotzki from Henley Business School South Africa, we asked respondents if they disagree or agree with the statement that ‘Leadership in your organisation is everyone’s job’.

What did we find?

Based on responses from 80 managers, the average answer was just below the midpoint (3.76 out of 7), meaning a very weak tendency towards disagreeing. This might look like a low score, but think about your day-to-day leadership reality! For most organisations the statement asks for quite an ambitious philosophy and experience of leadership.

The surprise?

Looking at the distribution of answers, the number of responses was very similar across five of the seven options. There seemed to be limited consensus on where leadership originates in organisations - with one half disagreeing and a third agreeing that leadership is everyone’s job in an organisation.

The implication for leadership practice?

These are initial results, so interpret with caution. If organisations are in fast, disruptive, ambiguous business environments, it is good to see that people experience more inclusive and collective leadership practice in their organisations.

The downside is the limited consensus. This might hinder effective and fruitful collaboration and interactions if people do not agree who is supposed to be involved in leadership activities and taking charge.

How would the results look like in your organisation?

What a great point to discuss at lunch!

Assuming ‘Leadership is everyone’s job’, we can also ask the difficult question: How do the many rather than the few influence negative leadership practices and behaviour? We started a study (see Future Insights below) that investigates how positive and detrimental leadership that is shared among team members can help or hinder teams in being more creative and innovative.

Interested to get involved with HCEL? Here four opportunities, among others, if you are looking for:

  • in-depth development experience the Henley MA Leadership is a truly inspiring and game-changing part-time leadership programme for people with significant leadership responsibilities
  • fully involving your organisation the ‘Henley LAB for Engaging Leadership: New forms of leadership, shared visions and global reach’ is a consortium of outstanding international organisations for peer-to-peer learning and collaborative exploration towards new practices and insights into engaging leadership
  • talking points on 27 June, our Annual HCEL Dinner Debate addresses ‘Leadership in contrast’; it brings together current and future top leaders from the military and business
  • future insights our study ‘The impact of collective leadership on creativity and innovation’ is now live. If you wish to participate in this research with one or more of your teams and benefit from the insights, please contact Bernd Vogel or Ana Graca