There are many essential elements to successful leadership but none more important than having followers. At the core of genuine leadership is the ability to create a cadre of followers who believe in your vision and abilities to achieve strategic goals. I am sure you have heard the saying, “ I would follow them off a cliff”. What that means is an unconditional acceptance of a leader, of putting full trust in an individual. Evolving into a respected leader takes time and skill. So how can you become that leader with a dedicated following?
- Expose Your Weaknesses: We all have those areas in our professional and personal lives that make us human. No one can be talented in everything. But can you let others “in” on your challenges and weaknesses? Can you admit the skills that don’t come naturally to you and require assistance from others? When we are able to ask others for help, that allows our followers to feel value. Let’s say you are a Baby Boomer leader who is asked to create an intricate technological report. You may be capable of developing the product, but there might be a Millennial on your team who could tackle this more efficiently- even producing a higher quality report. By admitting your weakness and reaching out to a more qualified individual, you are offering a professional growth opportunity. What a great way to lead!
- Use Words of Encouragement: Leadership is all about cultivating and developing future leaders. One of the most influential ways to coach others is to use positive communication and supportive feedback. There is no such thing as too much praise, as long it is given in a sincere way. Even when our followers make mistakes, it is helpful to identify the lessons learned and strategize alternative ways to approach the situation if it happens again. Did you ever have a boss who constantly yelled? I did. I never became a follower of his.
- Build On People’s Strengths: A great way to create a strength-based team is to focus on the strengths and talents of your followers. We all have gifts that we bring to the table, and a great leader is able to leverage those capabilities. Having a good understanding of people’s passions and abilities enables a leader to build healthy teams with happy and satisfied contributors. Find out the goals of your followers. What do they hope to achieve and what is meaningful to them? In a recent training I delivered, a member of the team was interested in doing more selling. They loved interacting with the customers and felt that was their career direction. After working with the leader, we decided to let this person connect more with the customers. A follower and leader were being launched!
- Be Self-Aware: Every so often take stock in how you are perceived by your followers. Leaders who come across as authentic and lead with their core values are more likely to be followed. Self-awareness helps boost our confidence as leaders because by leading the way we feel comfortable, our true image emerges. No need to put on a mask or fake costume. We need to take responsibility for our actions and decisions that are reflections of our genuine selves. Becoming self-aware can be a process that involves looking inside of each of us and asking ourselves what is really important to us. Writing down a list of values that guide our daily interactions can be helpful. Then we should look around our work and personal environments and assess whether those principles are alive.
Developing a core group of followers is the test of a true leader. How else have you led others?