Impact 101: Challenge Status Quo with Grassroots Leadership

Danett Nelson, Contributor

Want to make a BIGGER impact? Be a Grassroots Leader. According to, Grassroots Leaders are individuals who do not have formal positions of authority, are operating from the bottom up, are interested in and pursue changes that often challenge the status quo of the institution and society.

Grassroots Leadership is defined in social movement literature as the stimulation of social change or the challenge of the status quo by those who lack formal authority or delegated power.

Why it works

Grassroots Leadership has been wildly successful within communities across the globe because like community organizing, Grassroots Leadership is all about building support organically.

It’s about identifying the people around you with whom you can create a common, passionate cause. And it’s about ignoring the conventional wisdom of company politics and instead playing the game by very different rules.

Individuals together collaboratively create sustainable solutions to a growing number of complex issues. These issues range anywhere from safety concerns regarding traffic speed to major concerns such as water shortages, increases in crime, and the need for low-income housing.

While grassroots projects and initiatives have been so successful in a civic capacity there has been some hesitation to use it in the workplace. However, as the need for innovation grows we have seen many organizations adopt a flatter leadership structure that allows for increased collaboration, innovation, and a more supportive and participative leadership style among their leaders. Grassroots initiatives within organizations garners widespread enthusiasm in the workplace, brings together a variety of talents, and creates innovation from the bottom-up.

The 3-Step Framework to make it stick

How does it work?

  1. Create broad-based involvement: Make sure that each department, team, and individual are represented throughout the process. While each belongs to the same “community” and have a stake in the success of that community it is easy to forget that each may be affected differently by issues being addressed and that there are different interests or concerns depending on the part they play in daily operations.


  1. Create a credible, open process: Just as with any change there will always be some hesitation or skepticism from employees at every level. Allowing every individual, the opportunity to get involved, regardless of the level of involvement they decide to take, provides credibility and transparency while creating an open and receptive dialogue.


  1. Obtain leadership “buy in”: Simply put, change does not happen without support from leadership. Leadership support must be active and visible. You must have those who can make things happen, as well as, those who can keep things from happening around the table.


What’s at stake

A raw fact is that 96% of businesses fail within 10 years.

Business owners often find themselves spending much, if not all, of their time and energy to working “in” their business out of the necessity to remain profitable. This continued type of reactionary ownership will leave a business with:

  • Lost profits
  • Poor reputation
  • High-employee turnover

By taking a grassroots approach to solving daily issues leaders can quickly create a culture of trust, increase employee satisfaction and productivity, as well as, stay consistently competitive within the market.

Have you tried this approach in the past? What worked? What didn’t? Post a comment below to keep us all moving up and to the right!



About the Contributor Danett Nelson: At Front-Line Management Solutions, I use a client-focused model to implement solutions, tailored to a company’s specific needs and goals by focusing directly on internal relationships and the processes used to build and maintain those relationships. With over a decade of experience building and leading U.S Army Special Operations Teams, and creating programs around both employee and organizational development I am dedicated to helping companies attract and retain quality employees, remain profitable, and keep their doors open well beyond 10 years.


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