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More importantly, why would people follow you?

I was reminded of this critically important leadership question recently while working with an amazing co-hort of dedicated Directors at Datacolor.  We spent almost a week together learning about what should be common sense but for most well-meaning managers, isn’t common practice.

Taking time for this type of self-reflection as well as self-development isn’t top of mind for most of us given everything on our plates. If becoming a better leader is one of your aspirations, however, it’s essential.

 “A leader charging forward without followers is just out for a walk.”

As the group learned, great leadership involves many factors.  Managing their teams and team dynamics more effectively, practicing communicating and listening with intention and empathy, developing their strategic thinking skills.  But one of the most important is giving your followers what they need so that they can feel confident and inspired to follow.

And, figuring out why people would follow them.

After all, “A leader charging forward without followers is just out for a walk,” write Tom Rath and Barry Conshie, authors of “Strengths-based Leadership”, from Gallup.

So what do effective leaders give their teams? More importantly, what do followers want from their leaders?

Here’s what Gallup found in their research, as well as some questions for you for self-reflection.

1. Trust

The basis of all solid, well-functioning relationships, the ability to trust a leader is essential to cultivate followers. It’s the one requirement that successful leaders cannot afford to take for granted. In a high-trust environment, not only is there less organizational “chatter”, but tasks will get done more quickly – with a lot less effort and time.

“Vulnerability-based trust occurs when leaders comfortably and quickly acknowledge, without provocation, their weaknesses, failures, and need for help.” Pat Lencioni

But creating a trusting relationship can be complicated writes Robert Shaw, the author of “Trust in the Balance”.  He outlines three critical factors to determining how trustworthy someone is. 

    • First, a leader needs quality results. They need to follow through on business commitments and hold others accountable to their commitments.
    • Second, a leader needs to demonstrate Integrity. They need to behave in a consistent, reliable manner, be open and transparent with information and walk the talk when it comes to ethics and values.
    • And third? They need to show a concern for others and promote the well-being of their team members. And the “twist”? Trust is multiplicative. When any one of these factors is missing, the equation goes to zero.

            How can you practice openness and transparency with your team?

2. Compassion

People want leaders who care about them as people. According to the Gallup research, when 10,000 employees were asked what great leaders contributed to their lives, they said, “Caring, friendship, happiness and love.” 

When people feel as if someone genuinely cares about them, not only are they more productive, they are more engaged and committed.

Compassion means that you care enough about people that you have Coaching conversations with them – at least monthly – discussing their goals and their development, providing them with recognition as well as constructive feedback and, holding them accountable to their commitments.  

When people feel as if someone genuinely cares about them, not only are they more engaged and productive, but they’ll stay around longer. And they will work harder.

How would your team answer question 5 on Gallup’s employee engagement survey, “Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?”

3. Stability

Security, strength, support and peace.

Those were the words that were used on the surveys that Gallup conducted. People want some sense of stability in their work environment, challenging for leaders to provide in chaotic times. But knowing that a leader has a firm grip on the rudder, in the midst of a storm, promotes “followership”.  Even acknowledging as a leader that you don’t have all of the answers but that you’ll find them together can give followers a sense of calm.

What information are you sharing about your business with your team?  And how often?

Financial stability is another crucial part of this very human need for security – something that best practices like Open Book Management can help with.  Even if it’s a work in progress to open your books, educating people on the basics of financials is a start to developing this sense of security.

What information are you sharing to give people confidence about the business and how often are you sharing it? More importantly, are you asking for their “takeaways” to check that they’ve heard you?

4. Hope

Finally, followers want to know that there’s a future and a direction for the company. The most engaged employees that Gallup surveyed were the ones that had faith in their leaders’ visions, generating both optimism as well as higher productivity. Without hope, uncertainty and paralysis can take the upper hand.

“When things get tough, do we lean in to vulnerability and get curious, or do we self-protect…?” Brene Brown

If you’re only working on the urgent or the day to day, there’s no time to create a bigger picture for your followers.  This is where the One Page Strategic Plan™ can help you. Having a clear Core Purpose and a Big Hairy Audacious Goal can provide vision and direction to followers.

How are you communicating your vision for the future with your team?  When you have an all hands meeting, do you ask them what they’re hearing?

If any of these questions – or the answers – make you feel uncomfortable or even unprepared to be a leader, maybe it’s time for you to take action!

Give us a call or drop us an email…we’d love to help you create an atmosphere of trust, hope, security and caring for your team.

And consider checking out our newest offering, the 12 Month Scaling Up Master’s Program. An excellent opportunity for you and your team to become more Enlightened Leaders!

Scaling Up Philadelphia

This “Fast Track” program puts together decades of hands on, Scaling Up experience in the small and mid-market business space, cutting-edge business best practices and tools, and equips CEO’s and their teams to drive top-line growth, alignment AND accountability.

The select group of companies who participate will also have access to learn live from business thought-leaders like Verne Harnish, Marissa Levin, author of “Built to Scale” and Kevin Daum, author of ROAR: How to Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.

Reach out to find out if you’re qualified and get a Complimentary Cash Flow analysis.  Discover critical levers in your company to improve profitability and increase Cash.

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