Who are the people with the “least formal authority” in your organization? Your interns! When you are ready to “redistribute power in a way that gives many more individuals the opportunity to lead,” why not start with them? At Company X, we interns are not all recent college grads. Some of us have advanced degrees in fields unrelated to the Company's products. We are intellectually curious and eager to apply what we know to our new domain. We don’t wear beanies and we don't make coffee (unless we want some). We work on meaningful projects. We take our laptops home. We meet with the CTO, who asks our opinion and sends us links to Harvard Business Review articles like “How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge.”
We are the (former) interns of Company X, and here is a sample of what we have done:
Intern 1 led meetings with OEMs to review Free and Open Source Software security issues and was made administrator of the company’s many security scanning tools. Intern 1 is now a Software Security Engineer.
Intern 2 coordinated the company’s International Trade Compliance standardization and documentation process and also documented the current state of the company’s Engineering department during implementation of the Oracle enterprise resource planning system. Intern 2 is now a Software Engineer.
Intern 3 took over NPD tracking for all Engineering tasks and deliverables and created several custom tracking tools as well as processes and procedures. Intern 3 is now a Project Manager with responsibility for Release Management.
Intern 4 revised documentation for the company’s intellectual property process and edited patent applications emerging from R&D projects. Intern 4 is now a Data Scientist.