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Proud and connected at work: New ways to recruit and grow citizens

What does it mean to be a citizen at the workplace? And how can leaders develop and nurture this quality of person?

5 min read


Proud and connected at work: New ways to recruit and grow citizens

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Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today’s post is by Mike Horne.

One of the great leadership challenges in organizations is to build, develop and grow a community. Communities are composed of willing members who care for each other and produce extraordinary results. 

All of us are familiar with what it means to be part of a community — to feel connected, empowered, helpful and proud. How common are these feelings in your organization?

In many companies, the refrain “we’re all in this together” is commonplace. But, for many, the experience of belonging is not shared. Exclusion and systemic discrimination are evident in many forms and preclude and stall community building. Yet, some leaders successfully overcome the barriers of busyness and disinterest that stall community formation.

My observations of exemplary leaders and their ultra-performing teams in the world’s most-admired corporations convince me that sustained organizational growth begins by developing citizenship — a cornerstone of every thriving community at work. 

In an active citizenry, each voice counts. Unfortunately, we suffer from a short supply of leaders who can conceive a community as a competitive strength.

Conventional ideas about leadership focus on a hero’s narrative. Consequently, we have too little growth and innovation in our industries when our economies are in dire need of stimulation. When citizens and their leaders forge community at work, they unleash possibilities to create breakthrough results.

In organizations that value citizenship, you’ll find leaders who bring hope, optimism and resilience — in other words, authentic leadership. Leaders who are “real” or authentic are those for whom everyone wants to work. These leaders are the citizenry and community builders. Authentic leaders encourage their followers to bring more of who they are to what they do. Honesty legitimizes leadership.

5 actions to kick-start and grow organizational citizenship

Leaders adept at building citizenship generate enthusiasm and commitment to organizational purposes and goals. These innovative people and culture leaders demonstrate actions in five key areas to strengthen loyalty and citizenship.

1. Articulate, communicate and enroll others in the organization’s values

Enrollment requires company leaders to choose among competing values and to chart the course for ethical behavior. Values are selective and distinguish one organization from another. Values guide the choices employees make in choosing service to the organization over self-interest.

2. Promote a workplace where people are encouraged to succeed, not perform

When leaders and managers create environments where people can do their best work, everyone benefits. When strengths are reinforced, managers help others to achieve more. Disappointments and setbacks are acknowledged, and there is the openness to learn from failure.

3. Foster inclusion and belonging to produce beyond expectations

A good leader helps you to network. A great leader makes you an insider. I’m unaware of any work accomplished that occurs as a result of a singular heroic effort. There is a team behind every innovation. Innovation underpins organizational reputation and stakeholder satisfaction.

4. Replace guarded communication with openness and transparency 

I’m a believer that there are few secrets in organizational life. Informal networks are robust in organizations, and if something can be found out, it likely will. You might be familiar with the expression that actions speak louder than words. We value authentic leadership because it’s genuine. Regardless of industry or department, authentic leaders are potent agents of change.

5. Encourage plural approaches to create best-in-class alignment

If you’ve ever been on a high-performing team, you know that conflict and discord are natural. People give expression to their ideas, and having just one idea is always a bad idea! Through discussion, debate and dialogue, authentic leaders align others to the common purpose of delighting internal and external customers and partners.

Moving to next steps

People creating communities at work share common characteristics. Typically, they are positive and possess a truthful self-concept. In other words, citizenship leaders are people who are comfortable in their skin. Comfort is not an excuse for complacency, as improvement is key to sustaining active organizational citizenry. Leaders who build communities form relationships with their followers that are second-to-none.

Developing organizational citizenship requires a vision to create “better” together. In organizations where people are doing their best work, leaders give people reasons to care. Work has meaning and purpose. Individuals can bring more of who they are to work, driving commitment and citizenship. 

Wouldn’t you like to reap the rewards associated with the terrific companies increasing belongingness through citizenship and community?


Mike Horne is a visionary advisor, leader, partner to those working on complex people, group, and organizational challenges. He opens doors for people to be and do their best. As a changemaker, Horne works with a deep sense of confidence and dedication. Learn more about Horne.

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