How to Find Your Path to Active Leadership

BY Kathy Crosett
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If you’re spending your lunch break whining to your co-​workers about how things would be different if you were in charge of the company, don’t expect anything to change. More often than not, the changes you want will come about only if you initiate them. That’s the topic of a KelloggInsight post based on Professor Harry Kraemer’s research at Northwestern University.

In many organizations, we’ve grown accustomed to thinking that change only happens from the top down. Don’t let that kind of hierarchical mindset stop you from thinking like an active leader. Don’t let senior managers with the 'not invented here' attitude intimidate you, either.

Employees who are new to an organization often have the advantage of looking at issues with an unbiased perspective. It’s easy to spot problems with your fresh eyes and attitude, but don’t stop there. If you want to position yourself as leadership material, start suggesting solutions to the problems you see with your manager. If you're a long-​time employee and have decided you want your career to take a new path, it's never too late to start talking with you manager about potential solutions to problems.

Your input may not be accepted right away. In the right kind of corporate culture though, you will eventually make a difference. For example, when Kraemer was working at Baxter International, one of his bosses instituted a point system and awarded employees who made suggestions with 1,000 points. Talk about a fantastic corporate culture!

Kraemer also warns that you should be prepared for the work load that comes with leadership. If your manager accepts one of your suggestions, she’s also likely to task you with the responsibility of seeing the task through to completion. At that point, you’ll no longer have time to complain to your co-​workers, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference.