Have you noticed that in modern organisations where teams are spread across countries and even continents, where people have an array of job titles: Director of Collaboration Solutions, Vice President of Innovation Management or the enigmatic Genius, there is more focus on bottom up rather than top down 'command and control' type leadership. Every member of the team is expected to play a significant role.
Terri Kelly, CEO of W.L.Gore is one of the few people in her multi-billion dollar organisation with a title. She said in Harvard Business Review:
“Leaders.....recognize that they are only leaders if they have willing followers, and that this needs to be earned every day. Ultimately their contributions will be judged by the people they lead."
Leaders have to have “willing followers“. In this new world, the people who stand out from the talented crowd are the ones others want to follow.
In Strengths Based Leadership from the Gallup organisation's extensively researched profiling of leadership, the authors look at how to attract followership. They identify four distinct values followers need, to be committed and willing:
- Trust: Trust has to be earned. Leaders who demonstrate consistent respect, integrity and most of all, authenticity are trusted. They acknowledge their flaws and admit mistakes, especially when delivering difficult news. They commit themselves to their followers. The chances of employees being engaged at work when they do not trust leaders are just 1 in 12. When they trust them, that engagement increases sixfold.
- Compassion: Mounting evidence shows that a caring manager means people stay with their company longer, are more productive and produce more profit. One of my clients takes each of his team members out for an evening meal every month, another is happy to let her colleague work from home regularly because she has a long commute. By listening, taking interest and support followers' happiness and wellbeing, leaders demonstrate that followers matter to them.
- Stability: Followers need a leader they can count on who buffers them from threats, maintains discipline and provides consistency. Everyone knows where they stand. As Simon Sinek asserts in his TED Talk "Why good leaders make you feel safe" "When we feel safe within an organisation we naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities."
- Hope: Frequently leaders fail to realise how deeply followers need something to look forward to that helps them see a way through the chaos and complexity. Knowing things can and will get better is a powerful motivator and when absent, people lose confidence and feel helpless. To keep on being the best they can be, followers need to believe in a brighter vision of things to come.
Who are your followers you need to build trust with, show compassion towards, provide reassurance for and inspire hope within? They may be your Board members, your senior management team, your line manager and your team at work. And as importantly during this Christmas period, they may also be your partner, your friends, your parents and especially your children.