I can’t help but laugh when I recall the scene in the movie, Old School, where Will Farrell’s character enthusiastically attemps to lead everyone streaking through the center of campus. Eventually, he looks back and realizes (at the same time he is “busted”) that nobody has actually followed him. It begs the question, are you really leading, if nobody is following?
As a leader, you should have an element of magnetism to your style. What do I mean by that? I mean that people should be drawn to you; they should want to be around you (by choice, that is…not because it’s their job to take your direction.) The greatest leaders have a natural following of people that are pointed in the same direction; people that want to accomplish the same goals; people that want to be on YOUR bus!
If you are leading others and you’re lonely, then you’re not doing it right. Think about it. If you’re all alone, that means nobody is following you. And if nobody is following you, then you’re not really leading. ~John Maxwell
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you need to win a popularity contest. You don’t need to be everyone’s “BFF” or the life of the party, but it’s certainly beneficial if people want to follow and accomplish your same goals. Here are some tips that will help you increase your magnetic pull:
Tell the Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing but The Truth
Consider the closest relationships you have. I’ll bet you know those people pretty well….warts, flaws and mistakes included…and yet, you still love them. Heck, it’s likely that you love them even more, because they’re human – like you – they’re not perfect, and sometimes they need help…and they’ll admit it.
These relational principals apply across the board. Just because you’re in a leadership position doesn’t mean that you’ve attained perfection. You’re human; you’re going to make mistakes; you’re going to have questions, and people will respect you more for owning that. Your transparency and honesty opens the doors for you to engage others and rely on their strengths and expertise. Your team will feel needed and valued by you, and they’ll likely jump into help compensate for your weaknesses.
In addition to being authentic about yourself, leaders should realize the importance of being open and honest about the state of their organization, current and future. Leaders should be clear and candid in their communication to give everyone an accurate assessment of what’s going on and what’s needed to improve. This openness and authenticity creates understanding and direction, and it minimizes the chaos of uncertainty.
The cultures that are most toxic are those where nobody knows the truth – or where nobody is talking about it. ~Warren Bennis
Be Inspirational and Visionary
The truth of the matter is that we can’t all be the leader in charge. In fact, many people don’t even want to be that person! (I’ve often said that I wouldn’t be President of the United States for all the money in the world! I can’t imagine the challenges of that position, and I don’t want to!)
The end result is that many people want to be led. They need someone who can be visionary and inspirational. I’ve written before about The Hopeful Leader, and many of those concepts apply here as well. People want, and often need, someone to give them a brighter picture of their future.
In the book, Leading at a Higher Level, a study of more than 500 leaders showed that leaders who demonstrated strong visionary leadership had the highest performing teams. Leaders with good management skills but without vision had average team performance. Leaders who were identified as weak in vision and management skills had poor performing teams. So, why is it so important to have a clear vision? Because…
…leadership is about going somewhere. If you and your people don’t know where you’re going, your leadership doesn’t matter. ~Jess Stoner, Ken Blanchard, Drea Zigarmi
CNN compiled a list of the most inspirational leaders of 2008. Consider what they all had in common: a vision, purpose, something they believed in, felt passionate about and could engage others in. Notice that they also had a genuine concern for people as well, which leads me to the next point…
Care For Your People’s Needs
At the end of the day, we’re all people…and people have basic needs that need to be met. As a leader, do you really need to address some of the “softer” needs? According to Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, coauthors of Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, if you ask followers what they need from leaders, the clear answer is trust, compassion, stability, and hope. These four basic needs are the result of Rath, Conchie, and a Gallup research team asking more than 10,000 followers what the most influential leaders contribute to their lives.
Perhaps there is some overlap with this and some of the other points already mentioned, but I thought it was important to say it in this particular way. The reason for that is because this puts the focus on understanding what your people need. To do this, you must get to know your people. You have to ask questions, listen and engage. This is a critical component to understanding people and meeting their needs.
In this article from Gallup Management Journal, Rath and Conchie explain through a series of questions and answers why these particular needs are critical.
Share the Wealth
Wealth, in this case, takes on multiple meanings. Magnetic leaders are generous in sharing things that will benefit those around them.
If you’re more experienced, you should share the wisdom of that experience with others. Don’t ask people to reinvent the wheel. Share knowledge, and allow them to benefit from your lessons learned. Give your time to others and build into them. Your investment in them will have great payout in the future.
When a milestone is met, a project completed or an important discovery is made, give credit, praise and accolades to the appropriate people. Not only does this reward them properly for a job well done, but it incents them for future performance.
Of course, when it’s possible, be generous with the financial sense of the term wealth. Don’t be ‘that leader’ that takes a huge bonus while your people are getting pay cuts. Be fair and consider how much of your success depends on what other people produce…then, be as generous as you’re able to with promotions, pay increases and bonuses.
Of course, the key to every single one of these recommendations begins with taking that scary look behind you and being honest with yourself. Is anyone following you because they want to?
What does your magnetic field look like? Are you pulling people toward you as a leader? What benefit do you provide your followers? (hint…it’s not enough to that they get to keep their jobs!)
Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners, LLC. She is passionate about leadership and helping both people and companies reach their greatest potential. Please visit www.sagestone-partners for more information or feel free to e-mail Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org.