You’re probably familiar with the top-down management approach, even if you don’t know it by that name. Basically, this is the school of thought that tells us leadership begins at the top of the organization, with the CEO and other C-suite members. Their job is to take charge, and the employees are expected to follow.
This has been the default leadership philosophy for decades—but it’s starting to change, or at the very least to be challenged. Millennial employees, in particular, are skeptical of the top-down approach, many of them preferring a bottom-up method—that is, an approach where employees are empowered to take charge, set the tone, and steer the company’s vision.
Like it or not, this bottom-up approach is likely here to stay—but transitioning to this model can present some challenges. Let me recommend just a few preliminary steps.
Empower Your Employees to Disagree with You
Of critical importance is showing your team members that it’s alright for them to voice their dissent—without fear of punitive measures.
Adopt an open-door policy, and make it clear to your reports that you want their feedback—even about areas where they feel like you’re missing the boat or leading in the wrong direction.
Note that this does not mean you have to take every piece of advice you’re given! The important thing is to listen, be respectful, take it seriously, invite further conversation, and not hold it against employees when they voice dissention.
Provide More Autonomy
Another step I’d recommend is making a simple audit of your internal processes. Go through them with your team and look for areas where you could give employees more autonomy—more freedom to set their own direction.
Again, you don’t have to change everything. In some areas, clear direction from the top may still be required. But when you can allow for some bottom-up initiative, do. Your employees will likely have some suggestions here!
Look for Your Influencers
One final step: Seek out the employees who seem like natural leaders—people who seem to exert some influence over the rest of the group. Give them some responsibilities to set direction and come up with new processes. Allow them to set the tone for the rest of your team.