As we meet with candidates, we inevitably end up talking about leadership. Both the leadership skills they possess and value, as well as the kind of leadership they’ve experienced in their organizations.
Some have developed their leadership skills because of the leadership under which they’ve been serving, and some have developed their gifts in spite of that leadership.
It’s not hard to figure out which approach is more effective. People perform more effectively, grow more quickly, become more motivated and become more effective leaders in their own right when they have a leader that they want to follow.
What are some of the common characteristics of the leaders that people want to follow?
The leaders that others want to follow walk their talk.
They don’t say one thing and do another. They don’t talk negatively about members of their team behind their backs. They don’t blur ethical boundaries when it comes to how they handle their money, their family or their workweek. They are exactly who they present themselves to be. Don’t be fooled—your people are watching you and they ARE evaluating you. Is this person someone I can trust? Will they keep their word? Will they have my back when they say they will? When the answer to those questions is YES, your team will follow you to the end of the world and back.
As a leader, you may not be aware of how intimidating you might seem to your team. Just saying, “My door is always open,” will make you feel better, but it won’t inspire your team to take you up on it. The truth is “Open Door” policies just don’t work. The best leaders, the leaders that people want to follow, are initiators. They leave their office and visit with their team members one-on-one or in groups. They don’t just ask, “How’s the project going?” They ask, “How are YOU doing?” and then really listen to the answer. Now, not all of us are naturally relational leaders, and we all have a lot on our plates. But great leaders that others want to follow will schedule time to intentionally care and connect with their team.
3. Seek Feedback
Great leaders not only ask, “How are you doing?”
They ask, “How am I doing?” and “How are WE doing as a team?”
If you want to be a leader that people want to follow, take time to sit down with your team members, both individually and as a team, and ask them to evaluate how you are doing as a leader. Are you giving them what they need? Do you have any blind spots that need to be addressed? What are you doing that is helping them be successful? What are you doing that might be getting in the way of them being successful? How are we doing as a team? Are the goals we’ve set for the year realistic? Do they have what they need to achieve those goals? How’s morale? What can you do to improve?