Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Strategic Leadership: Being a Leader That People Want to Follow

We have all had our share of really amazing, and truly terrible, managers. Which means we all know, first hand, that the quality of our work in the past has directly correlated with the quality of leadership we were working under. Not that you would ever admit to that in an interview or meeting with superiors, but… it’s true. We all work harder for the kind of leaders we actually want to follow.

One of the most memorable pieces of advice I ever received from a manager came early in my career. He explained that a good leader never takes the credit and always takes the blame. It was a piece of advice that resonated with me, as I worked hard to always push the praise for a job well done down the ladder, and to absorb the responsibility when things went wrong, even when it killed me to do so. I truly believe that the ability to do exactly that is part of what makes a person a leader others want to follow.

But what else can you do to be one of those leaders people will always want to work their hardest for?

Set the Example: Thinking back on the worst supervisors from your work history, you can probably pick upon a few who never seemed to put in the same level of effort they demanded from their team. They were always showing up late, ducking out early, and scheduling work “meetings” on the golf course. It often seemed as though they were delegating their entire workload, and they never gave credit for quality work being produced by others. Those experiences should have taught you one thing: being a quality leader means first being willing to lead. And that starts by being the example you want your employees to follow. Practice what you preach, and always hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone else.

Show Interest: Being the type of leader people genuinely want to produce good work for isn’t just about being successful in business; it is also about being a compassionate and caring human being. Show an interest in who your workers are outside of work. Learn the names of their family members and ask about the coursework you know they are pursuing. There is a line to walk, between supervisor and friend, and you want to make sure you are always erring on the side of supervisor; but that doesn’t mean you can’t express a genuine interest in what makes your employees whole people.

Encourage Development: The best leaders are those willing to nurture and grow their replacements. No, that doesn’t mean you are hand selecting the person who will take your place when you retire twenty years in advance, but it does mean you don’t fear or avoid helping those who are working under you to grow in their own career paths. When employees feel as though you are invested in their futures, they are so much more loyal to you and yours.

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