Just because you’re a leader in an organization doesn’t mean others want to follow you.
I know that can sound harsh, but it’s true. You could supervise 3,000 people who wouldn’t follow you into a grocery store. Or you could manage 30 people who would go into battle with you. So what makes the difference? The character of the leader. If you want people to follow your lead, you need to develop these five qualities:
True, not every great leader models these characteristics. But if you want to create an environment in which others follow you—not because they have to, but because they want to—then you should work on these strengths.
1. Generous: How Can Leaders Show Generosity?
Sure, being generous could involve profit sharing or bonuses, but that’s not the only way you need to show generosity. Some people aren’t motivated by money. They will want to follow you, however, if you’re generous in other ways. Sharing credit for success—in public. Giving away wisdom from your experience. Offering praise to team members. Who wouldn’t want to follow a leader like that?
When you create a culture of scarcity—when praise is minimal and credit is never offered—your team members will be scarce with their energy and passion. After all, what’s the reward for their efforts? You can’t foster loyalty to the mission unless you give them a reason.
2. Courageous: What Does It Mean to Be a Courageous Leader?
Courageous leadership takes lots of forms. Brave leaders tackle the difficult tasks instead of avoiding them or delegating them to somebody else. They will have those uncomfortable conversations when a team member’s behavior needs to be confronted. Courageous leaders will set big goals, even if they’re not sure how to reach them. They are willing to get outside their comfort zones and charge ahead into unknown territory. They’ll go after the clients and the markets that seem unreachable. Following a well-worn path is no way to lead.
3. Trustworthy: What Does a Trustworthy Leader Look Like?
Let’s face it. There’s a void of trustworthy leadership in today’s culture. The news is full of stories about leaders whose moral and legal failings have impacted entire companies and communities. The good news is that you can stand apart as a leader worth following. Doing so will require a few deliberate actions on your part.
First, keep your promises to people, even if it affects your bottom line. If you don’t, others will write you off as just another person who only cares about yourself. Second, tell the truth, even when it’s difficult or unpopular. Third, keep confidences. When people come to you with work or personal conflicts, don’t share them with others unless you have permission.
Tweet this: Trust takes a long time to earn but only a second to lose.
4. Humble: Can a Strong Leader Be Humble?
Some leaders think that you can’t be both strong and humble. Some of the best leaders I’ve known have demonstrated both. You can cast a vision and lead an organization without coming across as arrogant and self-serving. And it’s not that difficult.
One way to demonstrate humility is to ask for and listen to feedback. Great leaders know they are not perfect. They know they have blind spots—areas of weakness that they don’t see easily. By asking for and listening to the feedback of others you trust, you’re showing humility.
Second, admit your mistakes. You will make plenty of them along the way. A good leader owns up to those mistakes instead of blaming someone else. Shifting blame tells your team members that you can’t be trusted and that you’ll throw them under the bus for your own good.
Third, ask for help. Maybe you’re a great vision-caster but day-to-day operational tasks wear you down. Add to your team people whose strengths complement your weaknesses. You want people who think and act differently than you do. And once they’re on board, let them loose to thrive. Don’t micromanage!
5. Empowering: How to Empower Team Members
A leader who empowers other people to succeed will develop loyal team members. You want team members to develop their skills and prosper at their work. That leads to a stronger and more productive company! To grow your leaders, delegate responsibility to them. Hold them accountable by checking in with them every week or two to assess their progress. And give them feedback on what they’re doing, both right and wrong. They need to know their weak areas, but they also need to know you appreciate their work and value what they bring to the table. And always be available for coaching.
Think about the leaders you admire. Chances are, they demonstrate these qualities, or at least they’re trying to develop these traits. Pick one or two traits that you want to strengthen in your own life and make a list of ways you can demonstrate them in your arena of leadership. Before long, you’ll notice that more people are on board with your mission and vision. With a team of people who want to follow you, your business could grow beyond your wildest expectations!
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