Make them want you as their leader

To be an effective leader, you essentially need two traits: 1) the skill and competence to be promoted to a leadership position and, 2) the ability to attract willing followers. John Maxwell says, "If you think you're leading, but no one is following, then you are only taking a walk."

I was very careful, in that first paragraph, to qualify "followers" with "willing". You can absolutely be a leader with unwilling followers. I've often heard it said that the most difficult type of leadership is leadership in a volunteer organization. At your job, you HAVE to follow what your boss says or you'll be fired. In a volunteer organization, they don't HAVE to do ANYTHING you say. You have to MOTIVATE them to WANT to do what you ask.

Good leaders, on the other hand, spend their time ensuring that their "followers" actually WANT them as their leader. Lieutenant General Hal Moore, the solder on whom the movie "We Were Soldiers" was based said that he could always tell how good the company commander was by how the troops referred to them. The troops under bad leaders referred to the company commander as "the" lieutenant. Troops under good leaders referred to them as "our" lieutenant.

So how DO you get people to WANT you as their leader?
  1. Followers must feel confident in the direction in which you're taking the organization.
    1. This means you need to have communicated the overall direction, the desired key outcomes, and principal strategies to reach those outcomes.
    2. You need to empower and enable your followers to achieve their part in accomplishing the stated outcomes.
  2. Followers need to trust leaders.
    1. You need to be accountable and trustworthy. If progress towards goals starts to lag, you don't look for someone to blame, you take responsibility and analyze the problem.
    2. You don't punish people that take reasonable and responsible risks and fail.
  3. Followers need to feel confident they'll be recognized and rewarded for success.
    1. That means that, as the leader, you need to answer the followers' question, "What's in it for me?"
    2. You need to be honest about the potential risks as well as rewards.
    3. You need to communicate the "big picture" and the part they play in achieving the overall goals.
    4. Your job isn't to micromanage them. Your job is to remove barriers to them accomplishing their goals.
      1. A former boss of mine was fond of saying, "If I have to manage you, then maybe I need a new employee."
  4. Followers need information.
    1. They not only need to know "what" the organization is doing but "why".
    2. They need to know that you have confidence in their ability to achieve the goals.


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