You lead because you want people to follow; but not all leaders know how to get others to follow. Many think others will follow because of their knowledge. Others think their positional authority as a leader should be reason enough for others to follow. Good leaders need neither of those things for others to follow them.
Someone once said, “Leadership is influence.” People are more likely to follow because they are influenced by the leader than by the giftedness of the leader or the positional power which comes with leadership.
How does one become a leader that leads through influence?
Be an authentic leader. Probably the most often-heard criticism of a leader is that she/he is not authentic. Some leaders fall into the trap of trying to please the powerful people or influencers in the group. As a result, they tend to treat differently the people with little or no power. They end up being inauthentic to both.
To be authentic is to always be true to who you are in every circumstance. Jesus’ definition of authentic is, “Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” (Matt. 5:37, MSG) People are more attracted to your authenticity than any other quality you bring as a leader. They will follow you and support you once they evaluate you and experience you to be authentic.
“Authentic leadership is an approach to leadership that emphasizes building the leader’s legitimacy through honest relationships with followers which value their input and are built on an ethical foundation.” (WIKIPEDIA) At the core of authentic leadership are honest relationships.
Respect and value everyone. It is easy for a leader to treat people differently because of what they represent for the leader’s success, or for traits they may or may not have in common. The person who is a Type A personality, like the leader, may be treated better and viewed in a superior light by the leader because of their similarities, as opposed to the person who is laid back, patient and methodical.
When people feel valued and respected for who they are as an individual and the unique gifts and talents they bring to the organization, they will be motivated to follow the leader. Acknowledging a person’s personal worth is a far greater motivator than any other incentive for people to follow a leader.
Develop the art of conflict management. Nothing undermines your leadership as much as your avoidance of conflict, or your inability to resolve conflict. And nothing undermines morale in an organization like unresolved conflict.
Your people will trust you and follow you when they know you are willing to resolve conflicts as they arise. Many leaders have such fear of dealing with conflict that they use their power to shut it down. For most leaders, their fear of dealing with conflict can be traced to their past.
A leader who has a conflict-avoidance approach would be wise to do some personal examination, and discover what is influencing this fear and work through it. If you do not, people will not be inclined to follow you completely because of their fear of your avoidance of conflict.
People follow leaders who make them feel safe under their leadership. That kind of safety can only be experienced under a leader who is authentic, respects and values each person equally, and has developed the art of good conflict management.
Do your followers feel safe under your leadership? Are you the kind of leader they want to follow? Are they following because they want to or because they have to?
Perhaps this is a question you could pose at the close of your next team meeting: “Are you following me because you want to or because you have to?”
If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.