The Powerful Leader

You’ve never even doubted for a moment that you’re a leader. It comes naturally as a by-product of your charm and charisma. You enter a room, and you get noticed. You speak, and they listen. You write memos, you issue declarations, you pronounce and codify and all the world around you listens and obeys.

The only problem is that no one loves you. If you take a leisurely walk, no one follows for the enjoyment of your company. They follow only out of obligation or fear. There is no enjoying you, because you’re a harsh taskmaster. You spend your days making withdrawals from the banks of people’s hearts and minds with your constant demands and tireless appetite for progress. No, people certainly do not want to be around you if they can help it.

But that shouldn’t overshadow or diminish your gifts. Clearly you’ve been given incredible opportunities to make changes and improvements. You weren’t hired for your ability to make friends. You were hired to do a job, and you’re going to do it come flood or famine. You have been given the gifts of communication, vision, strength, industriousness and commitment (just to name a few). You were designed to lead, and you think it is your mandate to make them follow.

So how do you make others follow? You force submission. Of course no one ever told you that submission is given not forced. Forced submission doesn’t come from leaders. It comes from slave drivers.

When was the last time you thought about what’s best for your employee? Have you examined her life to see what’s going on and how you can help? Each employee you have, every volunteer in your organization is there for a reason, and as the leader, it’s your job to discover it and help them reach their goals. Your job is to make your organization run well, but you will not get to keep it healthy without a radical following from your employees.

There are several ways to achieve a radical following. Here are four.

One – Empower those around you

You enjoy authority, and you even think that you’re pretty good at hiring good people. The problem is that you don’t trust anyone but yourself to get things done. You micromanage, you subvert and you undermine because you believe that they just can’t get it right. Never mind that you can’t get it all done alone. You whip your horses until they fall over exhausted.

The solution is to empower the people around you. The only way to make an organization thrive is to cast a vision and get out of the way of your talented people to execute. You did a good job hiring, didn’t you? So trust them. If they aren’t getting it, you either made a mistake in hiring them or your explanation of the vision and destination aren’t clear.

Two – Have a clear destination

Maybe you do empower the people around you to make decisions, but they just don’t seem to execute to your expectations. You thought these people were great when you hired them, full of potential. But then they start working on a project and you’re surprised by how poorly they’re accomplishing the work you hired them to do.

The issue is probably not with them. Your vision isn’t clear. I remember working at a firm once, and I asked, “What is my goal? What are my next steps?”

“Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

That response is empty. I just asked my leader about the destination, and rather than course correct or affirm progress, the response was devoid of both affirmation and correction. If an employee isn’t reaching his goals, take a look in the mirror. Have you made the destination clear? Does your employee know where she’s going and have you given her feedback on her progress that is affirming and clear?

Three – Try a little love

Don’t misunderstand this point. I’m not suggesting you be everyone’s best friend. You have a job to do, and sometimes that job means sharing hard truth with an employee. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, but c’mon. If you’re like the vast majority of people on this side of the dirt there is someone who enjoys you and loves you. Why? What makes you lovable outside of work?

When you leave work you joke around, you cut up and let your hair down. Well, that’s the real you and he’s way more enjoyable. Try harnessing your ability to woo others (Win Others Over) in the work place. People will not just respect you, they’ll trust you and follow you willingly.

Invest some time in building relationships with the people around you. Maybe you haven’t burned those bridges after all. If you take some time to stop by and chat with others about non-work topics it’ll build trust and confidence. And you know what trust and confidence bring? A more engaged and dedicated workforce.

One word of caution, don’t tell your employees you love them. It’s kind of weird. Just show them you care.

Four – Take responsibility  

When was the last time you admitted you were wrong? When was the last time you took responsibility for what went awry at the company? I’ve been thrown under the bus by my boss (can you tell?) and then left in the street while the bus backed over me again. It feels terrible. Your employees will tell stories about you; the only question is whether you want to be the hero or the villain.

When you stand up for your people and defend their well-reasoned position, you will earn their admiration and you’ll get to keep them. Trust your judgment from the past when you hired him. He was a good candidate and he’s a good employee. Trust his judgment and defend him when others want to find a head to roll.

If you can humbly accept that you need to grow as a leader, you can help fix what holds your organization back. Your people will defend you at the water cooler. They will recruit others to your cause and follow wherever you lead them. It’s in you to lead, so do it well.

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