Leadership At Any Level

Stronger company cultures, with broad-based leadership, are far more productive.

We have a leadership crisis on our hands—not just in our industry but, in fact, across all industries, from political offices to commerce, education and welfare. Leadership is hard, but it’s something from whose improvement everyone could benefit.

Each year at NSCA’s Business & Leadership Conference, we see hundreds of our industry’s best leaders. Why do they attend? To improve. To listen. To learn. And, hopefully, to take new ideas back to their businesses and help their companies grow—regardless of the market conditions.

We’ve all heard the idea that “anyone can be a leader.” I’ve heard that shared from the stage many times. I’ve read countless blogs and books about the topic, as well. Too often, though, I think that particular idea is forgotten. Stated in its simplest form, everyone has the ability to become a leader in some capacity. We often forget that, because we confuse “managing” and “leading.”

If you remember your elementary sociology days, there are five power bases. They help us better understand where power comes from—and where respect comes from.

  1. Legitimate power (the power that comes from your title)
  2. Reward power (the power to give)
  3. Coercive power (the power to take away)
  4. Knowledge power (power based on skills and knowledge)
  5. Referent power (power based on perceived merit or respect)

Although power and leadership aren’t completely interdependent, people often think that the power to drive change in their organization comes only from the first three power bases (legitimate, reward and coercive powers). In reality, however, some of the best leaders gain power because of their knowledge and the respect they have earned over their time with an organization.

I often talk to integration-firm employees who have great ideas to drive meaningful change, but who feel that, because they aren’t the owner or executive, they can’t drive that change. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

In the best companies across our industry, leadership is seen at every level. Yes, this is often driven from the top, but that’s not always so. These stronger cultures, full of excited leaders in vastly different roles, are exponentially more productive as compared to companies where leadership is solely a top-down activity. In fact, a solely top-down organization is likely one with a dismal culture—leadership might not really exist.

Leadership is so much more than a role in an organization; leadership can actually be fulfilled at all levels inside a company. People in high-ranking positions can grow by learning from those who, technically, work for them. Many great leaders I know make that a key part of their development. This message is so important to the continued development of companies. Particularly at a time when things are changing so fast, companies cannot afford to be focused on a hierarchy where employees are unable to participate in company leadership because of their job title or their (lack of) longevity.

The idea that “leadership comes from all parts of an organization” will be a theme at this year’s Business & Leadership Conference. With important topics in our businesses, like digital transformation, new consumption models, customer-experience design and mobile first, our industry needs new leadership. Our integrators need new leadership. And we need leadership to come from every part of the whole. We need leaders in technical roles, business roles and strategy roles. Old management won’t work; a newer, faster, more disruptive approach is required. Maybe it starts with leadership coming from completely unexpected parts of an organization.

When I look at the companies in our industry that are doing the best, every one of them is finding ideas in new places. They are breaking the rules, and they’re un-afraid of the great new ways that their teams might suggest to compete and win. They’re also unafraid of who within their organization is making those suggestions.

Want to learn more about leadership at every level? Attend the upcoming Business & Leadership Conference, February 28 to March 2, in Irving TX. Recognized experts will be talking to integrators like you about this very topic, discussing things like:

  • Turning your team around from being negative to opportunistic in seemingly “catastrophic” situations (Jim Blasingame, small-business expert)
  • Reaching beyond what’s required and doing something remarkable (Kevin Brown, hero creator)
  • Developing a powerful series of stories to convey your brand and build a strong client base (Kindra Hall, storytelling advisor)
  • Creating a company where the team is engaged, customers do your marketing and everyone makes money (Verne Harnish, author of Scaling Up)
  • Understanding how the economy will impact your business (Chris Kuehl, economic analyst and business strategy expert)
  • Increasing share and margin on every deal (Gary Kunath, author of Life…Don’t Miss It)
  • Influencing others, and determining your ultimate stamp on life (Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics)

We’re celebrating the 20th year of our Business & Leadership Conference, where we’ve talked about industry transformation for two decades now. We’ve got some special things planned. We hope you’ll join us!

Learn more at

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