Regardless of whether a fish rots from the head or from the tail, you still end up with a rotten fish.
The “fish rots from the head” is a metaphor that has been widely used to describe the impact of poor leadership from the top down.
Bob Garratt’s bestselling book The Fish Rots from the Head explores this concept as do many leadership articles that focus on fixing top-down leadership, but this is only half of the story.
Being a leader is not exclusively about having a team of people to lead.
Poor team and corporate culture, and therefore poor business outcomes, can result from either bottom-up or top-down failings.
True ‘leadership’ is independent of people management responsibilities – everyone can show leadership regardless of their role or position.
Companies that understand this invest in programs, initiatives and in creating environments that empower and build the capability of their people to be able to step up into leadership capacities regardless of rank or status.
In order for these initiatives to work it’s important that you show up and play your part.
Your team is a system, one that has rules, ways of operating, tolerances around what is acceptable and what is not. Some are implicit, while others are stated.
Invest in having a conversation about what leadership means for your team and the rules that attach to this at your next team meeting.
Below are some questions to help guide this conversation:
- What does leadership mean for this team?
- Does your team create space for leadership to emerge regardless of rank and status?
- What holds this team back from allowing powerful leadership to show up?
And a few questions for some personal reflection:
- What needs to change for you to show up as a strong leader in your team?
- As a team member do you step up or step back?
- What are the rules you operate under?
Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian-based coaching and training company.