Leaders are hard to find—at any level of your organization. Leaders exhibit a unique blend of charisma, vision, and character traits that attract people to follow them. They exhibit the other nine characteristics around which this article series was developed as well.
But, mostly, as they exhibit these leadership traits and characteristics, they become the person that other people want to follow—even choose to follow given the opportunity.
What Respected Leaders Know
Respected leaders know that they can't just walk into a room and say, "Hey I'm the leader. Follow me." If you're the boss, you can get away with this attitude to a certain degree, but the followers you attract will be compulsory and not following you by their own choice.
They will heed your advice and obey your commands, but it is involuntary followership based on your organizational hierarchy to a large degree.
Leaders understand that to actually lead most effectively and successfully, they need to attract people who want to follow them.
How Leaders Attract Followers
Leaders recognize their need to attract followers. Followership is the key to understanding leadership. To follow, people must feel confident in the direction in which the leader is headed. To have this level of confidence, the leader must have clearly communicated the overall direction, the key outcomes desired, and the principal strategies agreed upon to reach the outcomes.
Then, employees are enabled and empowered to do their part in accomplishing the stated objectives. They have the framework that they need to guide their own actions. And, empowered employees do want to guide their own actions. You will fail as a leader to your best employees if you ever forget this fact.
Employees Need to Trust Leaders
One of the key factors in whether an employee stays with their current employer is that the employee has confidence and trust that the leaders know what they are doing. This confidence gives employees the control they need for their livelihood and supporting their families.
Further, leaders people follow are accountable and trustworthy. If progress towards accomplishing the goals ceases, the leader takes responsibility to analyze the problem—they don't search for people to blame.
Consequently, people can have confidence that their leader won’t punish them for their efforts if they take reasonable and responsible risks that are well thought out and well-founded. They are accountable and responsible to deserve their leader's confidence and trust.
Leaders Should Recognize and Reward Success
Followers need to believe that, at the end of the journey, their leader will recognize and reward them for their contribution. The leader must help followers answer the question, “What’s in it for me?" Successful leaders are honest about the potential risks inherent in the chosen path as well as the potential rewards.
They communicate, not just the overall direction, but any information their followers need to successfully and skillfully carry out their responsibilities. They recognize that for their followers to perform most effectively they need to understand the big picture.
They also know that their job is to remove barriers that may have a negative impact on the employees' success—not to micromanage how the employees accomplish their work.
Employees Need Information
They need to know why the organization is pursuing the current strategies. They need their leader for guidance and to help remove any barriers they may experience along the way. Mostly, they need the assurance that their leader has confidence in their ability to perform and produce the desired outcomes.
If any of these factors are missing, leaders will have a tough time attracting followers. At the end of the day, it is the entwining of the relationship of the leader with the followers that makes their organization or portion of the organization succeed.
When the Leader Is Also the Boss
Occasionally, the leader is the person who is in charge, the founder of the business, the CEO, the president, or department head. Leadership qualities combined with positional power magnify the ability of an individual to attract and retain the all-important followers.
In fact, business owners can count on a certain amount of respect and followership based on their ownership and title. Longevity, too, plays a role in attracting and retaining followers. People who have followed the leader for ten years are likely to continue to follow unless they lose trust in the leader’s direction.
But, never forget, no matter what your position is in the organization, even if your current job is a valued contributor, you can become a leader that other employees want to follow.
In fact, in organizations, one of the reasons employees are promoted to positions such as team leader, supervisor, or department manager, is that they have demonstrated over time that people will follow them.
Characteristics of a Successful Leadership Style
Much is written about what makes successful leaders. This series will focus on the characteristics, traits, and actions that many leaders believe are key.
- Choose to lead and practice adaptive leadership.
- Be the person others choose to follow.
- Provide a vision for the future.
- Provide inspiration.
- Make other people feel important and appreciated.
- Live your values. Behave ethically.
- Leaders set the pace by their expectations and example.
- Establish an environment of continuous improvement.
- Provide opportunities for people to grow, both personally and professionally.
- Care and act with compassion and communicate positive mental health.