Everyday Leadership: What It Is & Why You Don’t Need An Offical Job Title To Lead

Everyday Leadership: Anyone Can Lead. Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Ronanld E. Riggio, Ph.D is an American leadership and organisational psychology expert who has revealed that there’s more to leadership than leaders.

Professor Riggio has, in fact, conducted research that attributes followers as co-creators of leadership, subsequently coining a new term that he has labelled as “Everyday leadership”.

Everyday leadership is a term that describes when an individual, regardless of their leadership position, influences others to achieve shared goals.

Professor Riggio said:

Ask anybody what leaders do, and they are likely to say that they lead. This just isn’t true. In actuality, it takes both leaders and followers to work together to enact leadership. Although leaders often engage in behaviours associated with leadership, sometimes followers do, too.

In our recent research, we have been looking at when followers engage in leader-like behaviours; we have labelled this everyday leadership. Everyday leadership occurs when an individual, regardless of their formal title and or level of authority, influences others to achieve shared objectives for the good of the collective. This means regular, everyday individuals who engage in leader-like behaviours.

Everyday leaders may or may not have a formal leadership position, they may be individual contributors or just followers who choose to be proactive and leads all the lights on.

What Are Some Well-Known Examples of Everyday Leaders?

Consider some of the student survivors of the mass school shooting at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida. Several of them took the lead by speaking out about the need for gun control—making appearances at media events and demonstrations and lobbying legislators to enact stronger gun control measures. Or, consider the employees who are trying to unionise workers at Amazon, Starbucks, and Target. They don’t have positions of power or authority, but they are leading.

What Are Some Everyday Leader Behaviors?

Classic research on effective leadership behaviours focuses on task-oriented behaviours (planning, problem-solving, monitoring) and relationship-oriented behaviours (developing others, supporting them, empowering), as well as change-oriented behaviours (encouraging innovation, trying to change the direction of a collective). We typically associate these behaviours with leaders, but anyone can enact them.

How and Why We Measure Everyday Leadership Behaviors

Most research on leadership begins by identifying some group of individuals who are labelled leaders. These may be upper-level executives, middle managers, or MBA students. In our research, we are trying to look at the early roots of leadership by focusing on regular people and following them across their lives. Some of them, as teenagers, and later as adults, did take on formal leadership positions, but some of them did not. We created the construct of everyday leadership in an attempt to understand how people, regardless of whether they are in a formal leadership position or not, engage in leader-like behaviours.

We asked our participants to report behaviours that they might engage in at work, or in volunteer activities, including such things as taking charge of a special project, representing a team’s position to management (or other authorities), planning or coordinating an event, presenting the results of a project, or coaching-mentoring others. We also ask about their civic engagement behaviours, such as volunteering, taking part in political activities, working on neighbourhood projects, and fundraising for charities.

What Are Some of Our Findings?

We have found that these everyday leadership behaviours do a good job of capturing leadership, regardless of whether the individual has an identifiable leadership position. Moreover, individuals who engage in more everyday leadership behaviours also appear to have greater leadership potential. In particular, they endorse ideas of exemplary leadership. They believe leaders should care about followers, consult with them, and develop them. There is also evidence that everyday leaders are more satisfied and engaged with their jobs and have a higher sense of well-being. What this line of leadership research does is shift the focus from leaders to examining the ways that followers also contribute to good leadership.

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