Do people follow when you (think you) lead?

Let’s get personal.  Do you think you’re much better than a marginal leader?  Well, here are a few tests for you to help come to an answer.  And a few tips for you if you fall a bit short.

Why do people follow their leader?

Dictators are not great leaders in the long run.  People follow such leaders by fear, rarely by devotion.  Employees want to have a stake in their own destiny, and above all want to understand why actions are taken which affect them, even if the outcome is not in the employee’s favor.

Traits of the best leaders

The best leaders are those who share problems and alternative solutions with their direct reports, then seek consensus in decisions as a result.  Obviously, there are exceptions.  If the group cannot agree upon a course of action, the leader must act, even if the action taken is to defer the decision until more information or a consensus is reached.  And obviously, an emergency is rarely the time to seek consensus before acting to protect lives and assets.

And the pace of leadership

[Email readers, continue here…]   In non-profit enterprises, such as educational institutions, the pace of decision-making is usually much slower as the executive director, president or chairman seeks consensus from the community wherever possible.   Many business executives first joining a non-profit board are surprised by the slow speed of deliberation and the resulting consensus-seeking that results.   Especially in collegiate academic communities, a dictator chancellor or president rarely lasts long in the position.

Employee empowerment

And this rule becomes a part of the DNA or culture of the organization.  Employees throughout the organization want to feel empowered to make suggestions, to know the reasons for decisions that affect their jobs, to have some small control over their environment.

Your bottom line

Without a doubt, if you interview employees and managers in companies large and small, you will find that those feeling most appreciated, most productive, and most creative are the ones allowed and encouraged to participate in the decisions that affect their jobs.

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1 Response to Do people follow when you (think you) lead?

  1. I am always reminded by the “Leader as an orchestra conductor” analogy
    1. Face your team, with the audience at your back
    2. Listen – everyone plays a roll in your overall success
    3. Gestures and actions matter – People follow what you do, not what you think
    4. You can’t play every instrument – Know your role and responsibility as a conductor, not a musician
    5. Perfect practice makes perfect

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