It’s easy to find a lot of information on leadership in general and the traits of an effective leader. And still, the key concern and question becomes … although one may be a leader, will others follow them? Throughout organizations of all types and sizes, the extent to which the leader of a company, a department or an team is seen and respected as the leader has a lot to do with the degree of success that the group can expect to achieve.
But what does that require? I have heard this asked many times when working with someone charged with the responsibility of leading either a single person or an entire group. The question arises when this leader is frustrated by the response they aren’t getting from their reports of team members and that, in turn, becomes an obstacle to achieving their intended goals.
As it turns out, just because YOU are in the leadership position, those who you lead look for certain things from you as a means of deciding that they are willing to be led and help you accomplish the task at hand. Coincidentally, I chanced upon an article written by Richard Chilee in which he identified four key questions that people ask before they follow their leader. I think he has identified key issues worth consideration for any leader and those he/she leads.
Here they are in summary:
- Does the leader know where he/she is going?
In leadership circles, vision is very important; it is what paints a picture of a desired future to the followers. A clear vision and mission are what gives the leader the power to show, in definite terms, the future of the business, organization or the project to the followers. Fewer people would ever follow a leader who isn’t knowledgeable enough to guide them to their desired future and outcome.
As vision is important for a leader, leaders must equip themselves with the knowledge of the destination. Your people will follow you willingly or grudgingly based on their perception of your level of knowledge. If they believe you have the capacity to take them to the desired goal, they will follow you willingly. But if you have shown a lack of capacity to lead them effectively, grudges and rebellion will become the order of the day.
- Do I want to go where the leader is going?
This question is very important because it arouses desire in followers. The willingness to follow you is based on the right answer to this question. After painting your vision to your people, they will have to decide if they want to go to where you are going. A high level of resistance is met when followers don’t find the designed future interesting. This will affect desire. And without the desire to follow a leader, he will find the leadership position most frustrating.
- Can the leader get me to the destination?
This is a test of ability and competency. Every follower likes to know if their leader has the ability and competency to get them to where they want to go. A leader’s confidence is dependent on his competence level. If you have the competence to take your people along to the future you have created, they will follow you willingly. Otherwise, you will find it difficult to lead effectively.
- Do I trust this leader?
Trust is very important to leadership. Also, important to leadership. No one follows a leader they don’t trust. Trust breeds likability. Leaders can still meet resistance in the followers if they lack the ability to be trusted even though they have satisfactorily met the other standards.
As a leader, your trust level is consistently under watch by your people. Every decision you make is being weighed on a scale of trust. If you appear untrustworthy in certain areas, chances are other areas which you do well will also be affected. You have to consistently build a trust capital across the board to lead well.
Do I believe I will have a voice? (an added point)
Believing that I, as a team member, will be heard and that my opinion is both valued and can influence direction is extremely important in determining my desire to participate and the willingness to do so. The leader who appears to have it ‘all figured out’ and is not genuine in their desire for input will become an obstacle to participation and involvement from the very group they lead.
Being the leader carries an inherent responsibility and assumption that he/she is qualified to fulfill that role. Be it their position in the company, department or team it presumes that they have the background and training to lead the charge. However, there is also the responsibility to act in ways that give team members the desire and willingness to follow that lead. The degree to which one accomplishes this will impact and even determine the resulting degree of success that one can rightfully predict. It will also impact the longevity accomplished in retaining skilled talent. Probably worth some consideration? I do hope so.