The Secret to Leadership Finding You
You aren’t a leader if you don’t have followers.
“He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.”
John Maxwell, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership“
A young leader I coached received a leadership award.
I asked him, “Why did you receive this award?”
He said, “I have no idea.”
I said, ”Go find the reason.”
Successful leaders understand why others see them as leaders.
10 Questions that help leadership find you:
- What compelling benefit comes to those who follow you?
- What makes you inspirational?
- How do your competencies draw others? Strengths repel or attract.
- What role does vulnerability play in creating connection? Real leaders connect.
- How are you using authority to empower others? The fundamental shift of leadership is from you to them.
- What’s magnetic about your purpose?
- How is the direction you’re heading compelling? All leaders have destinations in mind.
- What role does gratitude play in your day-to-day routine? No one wants to follow a bitter leader. Gratitude says others matter.
- How good are you at letting others shine? Learn to influence from the fringes.
- What role does optimism play in your interactions? The great tension of leadership is between dissatisfaction with the present and hope for the future.
Bonus: How are you igniting passion in others?
Aspire to become worthy of being followed.
Lousy leaders focus on position, prominence, power, and authority and neglect becoming attractive individuals.
Great leadership begins with understanding and practicing great followership. I’ll never forget what the retired COO of Chick-fil-A said,
“Seeking Leadership roles never produced anything for me. When I chose the follower role there was no end to what I could accomplish.”
Jimmy Collins, “Creative Followership“
Guarantee: Leadership finds those who understand and practice followership.
The rest of the story: How to Brag without Being a Braggart.
What makes a leader worthy of being followed?
The ten questions also worked great when I asked them about blogging. Leading and following occurs not just in the business realm. These are life principles. Very powerful. Thanks.
Thanks Fiscalshare. I love how leadership principles are life principles!
Great post! A good leader has to be gentle and kind. Unfortunately there are a lot of Machiavellians out there too; leading by fear and intimidation.
My experience is that approx. 50 % of all leaders are leading well. since I am notoriously POSIMISTIC I will say that’s pretty good.
Thanks Anne-Siri. What I like about the leadership world today is that when you say, “Old styles of leadership” most people know exactly what you are talking about. Servant leadership seems to be gaining traction. 🙂
PS I think I’m Pessatistic… but working at being posimistic. Thanks
A colleague of mine once made a remark that has stuck with me over the years. She said, “People, in any organization, really almost always want the same things: to be valued and to add value.” From my perspective, you are a leader if you can do THAT for your people. Another great post today. Love starting my day with you!
Thanks Marcia. What a wonderful approach. I find it’s incredibly easy to devalue people. But, it’s not that hard to let them know you value them, either. 🙂
I appreciate the encouragement!
This is it! You’re right! Reading Dan’s post first thing in the morning adds juice to my focus and optimism cup. Well said!
Poor Australians 🙁
Once again the timing on your post is almost spooky for me. I met with someone yesrerday that’s involved in developing our leadership and employee skill sets at the company to give some suggestions around best practices for conducting 1:1’s (inspired by a post from Joel @ Buffer). She recognized that I had a lot of passion around helping others in the mindset of listening leadership and so offered to get me in the mentor program for leadership. That was not my goal but I jumped at the opportunity.
I can’t wait to learn more so I can be even more powerful in how I impact others’ engagement and passion.
Thanks James. I just love what happened. It’s so much fun to go around looking for ways to make things better and seeing what good happens.
I was thinking about my own mission this morning and decided if I can’t help make things better, I don’t want to play.
YOu have my respect.
That’s awesome James. Congrats on being recognized for having passion for helping others.
Great topic, Dan.
Leading should be the outcome of a burning passion for the organization’s mission to succeed, for its members and those who profit from its goods and services to thrive, and a sense of stewardship of that organization and those it benefits, with subjugation of personal benefit or recognition.
Leaders should perfect their skills, not so they can be hailed as great people, but so the organizations that appointed them and the people who put their trust in their abilities can be successful.
Effective leadership requires true humility, including the willingness to court feedback, to persevere through tough times, to step aside and let another lead if it produces better outcomes, to put one’s finger into the levee when no-one else is willing or able to stop a leak. It is a life of service, a life of seeking the greater good.
Effective leaders are tough, yet gentle.
Leadership is often confused with charisma, good appearance, clever words, intelligence, power, prestige. This is not leadership, but dominance.
KaBoom! Marc, your comment almost made me weep. 🙂
Agree Marc has nailed it, awesome. Great reminder Dan about all the subtle and E.I. things which build followership. Interesting seeing history repeat itself with some of your readers where, whilst younger than I am now, they found others regarded them as leaders before they did.
Answer…..have ones own house in order.
When one does, one attracts all sorts of cool stuff!!
SP back to generating oxy
Oh yeah becoming an EPIC storyteller!!!
SP back to creating and going over how to share my epic stories!!!
Thanks Scott. There is a skill component of leadership. I wonder if “having your own house in order” includes that?
Well for starters getting over this Leader moniker would help…..a ton.
We are all in the people business.
There are two types of people…..more effective and less effective.
Using just Leader is useless because EVERYONE is leading themselves, so everyone is already a Leader, only differences are how many others follow and how effective.
Hopefully we can get that truth squared away.
So to answer your question Dan in my opinion based on my experience is not a skill component.
It is a FIRST, MUST component.
If a person does not know how to relate to themselves Grasshoppaaaa how they gonna relate to others?
The only way they know how, how they relate to themselves.
One cannot, I repeat, one cannot give others apples if they have oranges.
Priority one. To thine own self be true, get ones own house in order.
Then learn how to tell cool stories to others about your experience cause folks learn best hearing cool stories.
SP back to oxy producing and doing cool stuff I can share with epic stories!!!! I am cool like that!!! Hehe
Just my strongly passionately felt belief. Does not mean you are bad person with bad posture if you are not feeling it!!!
Right on SP! Everyone is a leader. I share the following with people all the time – “You don’t need my permission to be great. You need yours.”
There are formal leaders in an organization, the ones appointed to those roles, and then there are the real leaders of an organization – the ones anointed by the folks on the team.
Good one Scott. It’s hard to follow someone who doesn’t have all their ducks in a row.
Dear Dan et al,
Dr. Deming long ago warned of the detrimental effects of external motivators, fear being the most common and obvious. Real leaders appeal to the intrinsic motivators that we are born with, such as curiosity, pride in achievement, the desire to belong and grow, the need to feel that what we do matters to name a few. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot manage him to drink. We must lead others by example while managing systems and processes. I’ve was once asked by a manager who I coached in lean when he could fire someone. I responded that he could do so with good conscience when he could prove that he had given that person the tools and information to do their job correctly and safely. Thanks Dan, that’s my two cents for today’s topic. Frankly I remain amazed at how ill prepared most managers are to lead.
Thanks Bill. Props to your two cents. Leaders succeed when they connect with peoples hearts not superficial exteriors. What a powerful lesson.
Regarding being prepared for leadership. I thought I was prepared for years. I wasn’t. Maybe, I’m just catching a glimpse of what leadership is about. On one hand it’s easy. On the other, it’s really hard.
Thanks Bill. These detrimental factors Dr Deming spoke of were real and remain so today. I wonder how many have seen their efforts hindered by those with negative alterior motives? It makes one wonder how some got to where they are and yet remain there when their negative motivations are evident to everyone….. Thanks Steve
Oh Steve, It is very good to chat with someone who is familiar with Deming’s belief in intrinsic motivation. It is my concerted opinion that the managers whom you have mentioned remain in their positions due to the fact that most corporations have dysfunctional management policies based upon top down management styles. There is no desire on the part of those in charge of fiefdoms to surrender their control over by empowering teams since they desire to remain in control no matter how failed their policies have proven for the organization. This assessment is sad but true and is based upon 40 plus years of observing poor managers whose agenda continues to cost the firms for whom they work in terms of creating defects, not responding well to the customer and flawed and ineffective use of human resources. Regards, Bill
Bill, you’ll be glad to know my pardner and I make Demings-Red Bead Experiment a part of my Character-Based Leadership presentation during a breakout session. It’s always interesting and refreshing as folks reach that ‘ah HAH’ moment and you can just tell, ” they all get it”! KEEP ON KEEPIN ON BILL! Steve
This was a comic strip I saw some weeks ago and it’s so darn good:
A wake-up call to any leader:
“What if we train our people and they leave?”
“What if we don’t train our people, and they stay?”
“BRILLIANT ANNE! Thanks for adding”!
Two concepts really drew my attention- dissatisfaction with the present and hope for the future, and lousy leaders focus on power, prominence, power and authority. They are so true statement. And in the process, willing to become leaders lead to becoming manipulator. This makes difference between leaders and manipulator. Generally people think being successful and gaining position is leadership whereas the reality is opposite. To gain position, people tend to play tricks and engage into all kinds of activities that are generally venomous in nature. And since system also values such activities, they get position. And in the process, they leave very important element that makes people feel proud of- humanity.
And this makes people worthy of being a leader. Any person without good moral principle can not be leader. He can be called as a leader in the hierarchy but leadership is beyond hierarchy. Leadership influence, inspire and uplift others. It is not about self, it is about others as you right said.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. Your observations about manipulation are so powerful. The focus on humanity and building humane organizations is gaining ground these days. Thanks for being a voice in this important movement.
We need to confront our inner ambition with these ideas. Am I manipulating or just making things better? Am I serving myself or serving others?
Great stuff, I do have to say that there is scripture that backs all you say.
That is probably why it truly will work. Right?
Always great stuff I will do my part and share it.
Thanks Kymee. I hope that truths are true regardless. If that’s true, then there probably is a scripture that backs this up. Cheers.
I believe that a great leader not only can inspire his followers and bring the best potential from them but also can encourage and trust them to reach their highest achievements.
Thanks Yan. Bringing trust to this conversation is like bringing gas to a bon fire. Cheers
Good morning Dan. I like this post, your insights and advice are recognizablely effective and measurable. I also went on to read, “How to be a a Bragard without bragging”. Which leads me to this question which many have struggled with. Leaders, supervisors, managers, people whom hold any title of authority unfortunatley are ‘not’ all given thier positions for the rite reasons. This causes deep, hidden feelings of inaddaquacy and often inferiorty of those who work under them. In my experience it can be challenging if not imposible to win this persons respect and support even when you’ve acted and performed in a way deserves thier respect and support. To be frank, there are those who will go to great lenghtes to hold others down out of spite, jeolocy, envey, disdain, etc., etc.. “Yes it’s true, these folks really are out there and they do thier best to hold down those that they feel don’t fit the mold, or run with the rite crowd”. They greet you with a smile that hides ‘ fangs’ that are ready to chew up and undermine any or all your positive efforts,, for no other reason than THEY CAN. Addvancement comes much easier when you have confidence and support of superiors. (QUESTION) How do you overcome the naysayers when it ‘s evident you have the knowledge, skills, talents, and ambition to produce true effective leadership? Cheers Dan
One doesn’t have to hold the top power position to lead. On the contrary. The top has room for only one or a few.
The secret to leadership is stewardship and commitment to the right outcomes for the organization and the people it serves, no matter what the obstacles or resources.
At all levels but the top, one of the obstacles may be the people above in the org chart, and one of the restrictions on resources may be the restrictions they cause. A person seeking to lead will work for satisfactory outcomes within the constraints those people cause unless they come to the point where they feel they cannot contribute meaningfully to the mission of that organization and can contribute more to another.
Learning to truly lead at lower levels, with the constraints imposed by the organizational leaders, will provide experience to deal with external constraints imposed by the those outside the organization if the leader finds him/herself at the top someday.
Leading, then, is not about pecking order or title, but about a mindset of contributing actively to the good of the organization and its people, no matter what the role.
Leaders at the bottom must lead and serve upwards, typically in positions of detail, small budgets, and short time horizons. As organizational control span increases, so do budgets and time horizons. Leaders in the middle lead and serve in both directions. Leaders at the top must lead and serve downwards, while protecting the organization from external threats and targeting external opportunities.
It is a cop-out for people in lower positions to say they can’t achieve something because they are held back, just as it is a cop-out for people at the top to blame those reporting to them. Leading and following are for everybody, just in different ways. Those who would lead need to stand out by contributing more than their peers, not for recognition, but for organizational health. Recognition may follow. A true leader doesn’t seek it.
Thanks Marc I appreciate your insight. However, I work in a very ‘ ego driven’ sector of law enforcement where all the effort, potential, and even positive results mean little or nothing to some of those above you. Our culture can be bitter and unrelenting to those who ‘the power people’ wish to inhibit thier upward mobilty. “There are greener pastors out there, maybe it’s time to find one”.
This is unfortunately true of many places where people have lost their sense of mission. Their work becomes transactional (I work, you pay) and zero sum (I win, you lose), and engagement is conditional (I’ll help if I get something from it). Behavior is primarily egocentric.
It is possible to flourish personally in such a culture, but it means going against the tide. That takes effort, and can become exhausting. However, it only takes a spark to kindle a large fire. If you’re not too exhausted, it might be good to be the spark…
Thanks for sharing Marc!
Steve: To be a high-achiever and work in a toxic environment like that is HORRIBLE. I have done that and it’s a killer! Quitting the job is a good option. Whistle blowers are not popular. I have been told point blank that it would only make things worse for me. Anybody have an other advise?
Leading is like teaching; different methods are required for many different individuals. Not everyone responds in the same way and so a leader needs to use every tool they have to achieve the goals agreed upon. Because of this fact of human nature, there are times a leader needs to be direct and forceful, though it must be done with respect and grace. I point this out because I sometimes read between the lines in many comments the need to be somewhat careful in how we react, that we may hurt someones feelings. Am I incorrect in believing that a leaders skillset needs to include sternness as well as empathy?
I think well performed leadership is intuitive. I don’t believe in following a pre set method. This will sometimes lead us to more firmness. Depending on the circumstances and people involved etc. Thus I also believe that it comes from more than schoolbook learning and following a specific ideology. It comes also from an inner urge or fire and is hard to explain.
I genuine love for people is essential.
So in short I tend to believe that to lead well isn’t a matter of choice or even a very conscious activity.
Life has thought me that people are vulnerable and have a strong need for POSIMISME and hope. People always long to be seen. In all working environment; industry, schools, hospitals, offices and in all ages. If it’s in your heart to see them: eureka – you have followers. Simple and wonderful and It’s hard to fake this.
I don’t know; perhaps good leadership is s divine matter? Perhaps you can only lead with divine intervention?
Actually I’m a very practical person! I believe in action. People may understand words but action moves the heart. A hug says more than 100 words. An assignment given is proof of trust. A promise of trust is worth nothing!
A plan means nothing – planning is everything.
I guess this open up for the old discussion: can leadership be taught? I guess my answer would be: in the right hands many great books are useful. They may strengthen a great leader. In the wrong hands it’s ….. futile or worse misused.
The aspect of GOOD leadership can be taught. However as I continue to learn from my life experiences I realise that ‘Character’ can not be taught. “You iether have it, or you don’t”!!!
Leadership is where methods meets motives. It is very good to hear from a fellow proponent of Dr. Deming`s methodologies Steve. The science behind leadership methods can be taught, however the motives behind wanting to lead remain the real issue. To those of us who train lean leadership methods, it is very evident to us if our trainees are the least bit interested in leading others by example. Getting those who resist right motivators must be brought to an ‘ah ha’ moment. My experiences tell me that this takes far longer than implementing the processes to support a lean environment. Many who are ISO compliant have no real means to execute lean because of the toxic interpersonal environment in the facility.
Thanks Bill. Acknowledging that motivation is the reason we do what we do is often neglected. I like Daniel Pink’s work in this area. I’m thankful you shared your insights.
Who we are – our character – is a reflection of experiences fused into our cognitive personality. So I have to disagree with your point of view. It’s like saying someone is bad to the core and cannot change. Or extroverts have it and introverts don’t.
Thanks Martin. One of the things I love about blogging is the conversation. Thanks for disagreeing.
Good leaders are stern and rebuke when necessary, for the good of the person and the organization. They are not, however, self-seeking or unkind. They do not seek personal dominance or have a need to win arguments or micromanage, but they do exert influence in appropriate ways, including reprimand and correction, for the right reasons.
Since leaders can’t always discern what is best for the organization, they make mistakes, and need to be open to accepting correction and rebuke, admitting fault, and asking forgiveness themselves.
Leadership, then, isn’t about being unnaturally nice, but about being genuinely gentle, kind, understanding, yet demanding.
I like how you discuss how to make a positive impact by being optimistic, grateful, inspiring, purposeful, and competent. How does one get to be these things if they don’t manage themselves this way? Noticing how you impact others would help leaders internalize the positive impact they are having. A great method to internalize one’s positive impact.
Thanks for the post.
Damn, Dan, I’m still pondering what I consider your most insightful blog for leaders and staff members yet: Heartfelt Engagement! I see (understand) it as the key to leading everyone to personal fulfillment and ultimately peak performance professionally. One’s personal vision does lead to engagement, and can coincide with organizational goals. And, among the many excellent reader comments, the one that caught my eye most was of a mom who was inspired to think of her son as a result of your blog–which in turn made me think two things: 1) Her son “is” a leader…already, just by virtue of finishing college and seeking a professional position; and 2) She should remind her son to “interview” the manager about the company. His interest is certain to novel among other applicants.
About leadership finding us, leaders know we must first be servants. Yet, we also know it’s not enough just to be servants. I was always a
scared, serious student in business school as a young punk many years ago. And I had an old “classical” professor who was tough but tried to be funny, and I didn’t know if I should laugh or really think and answer. Shoot I just wanted learn get a passing grade and get the heck out of there.
Professor George would ask, “Is it better for 100 burros to lead a lion, or One Lion to lead 100 burros?” Or, “Every person is a fool for at least 5 minutes every day: Yet wisdom consists in not exceeding the limits.”
Sometimes his remarks were like proverbs: “Admitting error clears the score, and proves us wiser than before.” At other times I thought my wonderful professor was just messing with us to see if we had a common sense: “Numbers can “figure” life out, but only words can “elaborate” on the solution of living.”
Followership? No one ever wants to be called that. And I really do not believe any real leader wants followers. Leaders want leaders on their staff. There’s a Latin term, primis intra pares…leader among leaders. Imagine a room full of leaders: A leader will always rise in
that room full of leaders.
Back to the Heartfelt Engagement post, I think every organization ought to have an official Staff Fulfillment Program founded upon
those basic but profound principles.
This should be a standard mantra: “Aspire to become worthy of being followed.” This leads to everything else.
Hello Dan, Great post… I’ve pinned the questions to my task list as a reminder.
I often think leaders have forgotten what leadership means. It is to find a way. And this is achieved with those who accompany us on the journey.
Mm. Question number one can be phrased better. What compelling reason do people have to follow you, also works for corrupt dictators. Berlusconi is also a master in promising he will take care of you (and then using you to take better care of himself.). And I do believe you sometimes don’t have to know why people follow you. If you are true and of service and it happens, realizing it may lead to strategic planning of getting more followers, which takes the heart out of being true. I’ve seen several young people inspiring lots of others without a clue. The naive way they lead is stronger than conscious banner waving for a goal, because power is out of the equation.
Thanks for quoting me, Dan!
That’s what worked for me.
leadership principles have changed and the contributions of John Maxwell are reaching everywhere, the key is put enpráctica and no longer believe leadership is something mystical. Thank
Great blog post.
I wrote an article about this a few years ago: ‘Follow and lead. Lead and follow. Or both at the same time?’ What inspired me to write that was this quote by Aristotle “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader”
Every time I take on a leadership position I also search for new mentors to help me to better understand where we are heading and I’ve been lucky to have met many inspiring people. When I understood what it is that makes me follow someone and what it is that that person does I also learned what it is that I can do to inspire the people who follow me. It is all a big circle, and you learn all the time.
Here is what I wrote 2010 if you would like to check it out.
Thanks Sofie. Love hearing your story. Thanks for extending the conversation.