The following description of Distributed Leadership is the work of Gary Heil, with a few additions by yours truly.
Leadership is the responsibility of every employee. We cannot afford non-leaders at any level in the company. We, therefore, are not given our ability to lead from our bosses. The opportunity to lead is a right given when we are hired. The authority to lead is granted by those we hope might follow.
Distributed Leadership does not mean that every person gets to make all the decisions that they want to make in the company. It does mean that they have the responsibility to speak freely, to be informed, to challenge, to learn, to invest creative ideas and to fully participate in the process of creating the future. It means that all leaders have an obligation to create an environment where these behaviors are not only possible but an environment where these actions are encouraged and supported.
People who have successfully created a culture where leadership and learning are distributed tend to share a common set of beliefs:
Ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
Under the right conditions people seek responsibility for making a difference.
People would rather excel than be average.
Remarkable people want to work around other remarkable people.
People need to find meaning in their work.
People want their work to matter.
People will contribute more if they are truly satisfied by their work.
People will be more satisfied by their work if they are clear about how to contribute and are able to do so in ways that are meaningful to them.
Leaders have a moral responsibility to create an environment where people can grow toward their potential while making a difference for the organization.
It matters how you play the game: the end does not justify the means.
People want to be held accountable for their contribution.
People prefer positive and hopeful rather than negative and pessimistic.
Trust must be given before it is earned.
People want to get better.
People don’t resist change; they resist being changed.
The way people think is often more important then the tools they use.
People will act as leaders the way they were led as followers.
What you tolerate you teach.
I’d love to hear your additions and your comments and I’d especially love to know that you passed this along to inspire others to make it real in their organizations.