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Roadmap to Effective Bottom Up Leadership

TRC-2019 Learning Session 31:50 minutes

by John Mayo, Sound Transit

Reliability systems and standards rely heavily on executive sponsorship to drive change throughout an organization. However, the reality is that executive leaders have limited bandwidth and will not always be the initial drivers of change. Often times, the organization cannot wait for sponsorship to initiate meaningful actions. These efforts can start with anyone in an organization, including front line employees.

“Bottom up leadership” can effect meaningful change, but what are the most important elements of effective “bottom-up leadership?” Strong relationships are essential to success in business, particularly for bottom-up leaders because they have limited or no positional influence. Organizational acumen, the ability to understand the current climate of the organization, ongoing practices, goals, and policies, in order to recognize opportunities, is another critical aspect of bottom-up leadership. The leader should introduce change that aligns with the organizational objectives. Finally, the ability to persuade stakeholders to support and engage in the initiative is equally important for success while implementing and sustaining the change.

Sound Transit has recently undertaken an initiative to improve our asset management information system that leverages this kind of bottom-up leadership. The three elements described above that have been essential to this initiative: 

1) Build strong relationships;

2) Develop organizational acumen;

3) Be persuasive with stakeholders.

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