I often rode bike with my own kids and sometimes neighbor’s kids too around our neighborhood. Came to a cross road I often asked, “who is going to take a lead and show us which way to go?” Not only no one volunteered, but the kids typically announced their strong opposition to lead, even including those who I considered outgoing in general.
I puzzle every single time when this happens. This is such a risk-free situation to make an easy decision for the group. But for the kids who I rode with it seemed to be such a big deal.
It takes courage to make ANY initiative and decision in a group setting!
This is also true coming to a work environment.
There are opportunities at ALL LEVELS in a work environment to take initiatives and drive progress with even minimum risks, but how often do we see volunteers? And you know you have a leadership material if one consistently volunteers under those and even more challenging circumstances. Unfortunately, it is quite often that consistent initiators are concentrated to a few. How can we promote a culture for everyone at all levels feeling safe to lead? To me, based on my bike riding experience, keep lowering the risk bar is not the answer. It needs continuous reward-for-risk-taking feedback loop to build up boldness of a team, especially if a risk-averse culture is already embedded in your organization.
When no kids offered to lead coming to a cross road, I just patiently waited, until someone just rode along to whatever direction he(she) chose. All other kids followed without complaints. Given time, the kids will learn there is really no downside of making a call like this for the rest and the reward is he(she) gets to choose where ever he(she) wants to go.