Fox World Travel chief culture officer Audra Mead discusses the benefits of nurturing “leaders-in-progress.” By letting people — regardless of title — lead projects, present to senior executives and chart their journeys, organizations can get stronger from within and individuals can reach their potential.

Organizational culture is the foundation from which leaders secure solid footing to ensure their organizations are advancing, and providing appropriate guidance to help those around them rise. The culture of leadership starts with modeling the behavior we want to see in others and living our values every day.

Strong leadership doesn’t just happen. It is often the result of hard work and a consistent willingness to grow, develop and try new things. This experience happens over time. Cultivating a culture of strong leadership comes from leaders-in-progress living up to their potential within an organization that takes tangible steps to ensure others can showcase their aspirations. An organization must provide clarity of purpose, recognize the value of its people and support a transformative change.

Being a leader is not always based on title or position. One doesn’t have to be in a managerial role to step up and display leadership potential. Within a strong culture of leadership, there are opportunities to flex these leadership muscles at every stage of an employee’s career — both within one’s team as well as in other parts of the organization. It is the responsibility of both leaders and associates to identify these opportunities and have the foresight to either offer or accept them.

Audra Mead, Fox World Travel

Audra Mead, Fox World Travel chief culture officer

Great leaders invest in their people and help them develop their leadership capacity. Team members should be encouraged to spearhead project plans, participate in leadership meetings and present ideas and updates to peers, the executive team and other leaders.

A great example of highlighting leaders-in-progress is to provide them a stage for sharing with the organization’s leadership team their successes, the barriers they faced during the past year and aspirations for the upcoming year. This allows team members to practice leadership skills and demonstrate their ability to connect with and speak effectively in front of peers and leaders. They can show how they encountered and overcame barriers and explain what they learned during the year. As an outcome, these leaders-in-progress will continue looking forward through an organizational lens as opposed to an individual lens.

This reflects a culture in which leaders actively encourage leaders-in-progress to walk alongside them, rather than behind.

With these opportunities, the organization’s leadership team can recognize how to best advance connections between leaders-in-progress and their teammates, customers and, more importantly, what they do every day. This recognition and guidance give a leader-in-progress a clearly defined purpose. Their purpose will drive their passion for what they do and increase their engagement within the organization.

“Every job is an audition for the next role.” Many of us have heard that saying in one form or another. Its intent is pure. Those who aspire to be great leaders must assume the role of planning that journey and embrace the opportunities and mentors made available to help reach the desired destination. 

We each have a responsibility in our career journey to watch for and create those opportunities to grow and to make known where our interests lie. This all requires being proactive. It’s not enough to just be at the ready when called; leaders-in-progress turn on the spotlight before stepping onto the stage. They put in the work behind the scenes, knowing that they are the owners of their leadership journey.  

By engaging in critical monthly (or even weekly) one-on-one conversations with direct reports, leaders can maintain an open dialogue about aspirations and opportunities. Using culture to influence personal growth lays the groundwork for faith and trust, and helps employees feel like their company has invested in them.

As a result of a strong foundation built for organizational culture and leadership investment, an organization can blossom from the inside. This is what it means to have depth in your organization and why it is important to continue to nurture a culture in which everyone has an opportunity to showcase their leadership potential regardless of position.

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