I’m sorry to say your team today won’t follow you just because you are their boss; authority alone won’t earn you any long term right for others to follow you. Today, we are in a world where the team can sack the coach (leader). They can subtly withdraw, “go on strike” and fail to fire while complaining loudly about their leader and in most cases by the time the leader gains wind of this, it’s too late, the snowball is already rolling down the hill.
The unfortunate truth about leadership is that you’ll be compared to what others think is “good leadership”. From the moment that your name is announced we are seeking information about; what you have achieved, what you stand for, what others think of you, whether we will enjoy working with you and many more elements which you are not aware of let alone can control.
It’s like the first exercise in the leadership programs that we have all done when you are asked to “think of a good leader and think of a bad leader”. We are now assessing you against an ideal criterion, not, asking ourselves; who are you, what are your strengths and challenges, what you’re capable of, but we are measuring you against an ideal which may not even exist.
Added to this we are in the age of leadership awareness, there’s not a day goes by where an article isn’t written, or experts are not broadcasting the “must do’s” to lead others in today’s world. Things such as; have a vision, be technically strong, demonstrate good emotional intelligence, create engagement, build a strong and collaborative team, inspire others, create physiological safety, understand customer needs, collaborate well amongst peers and the list goes on, very much like a laundry list of requirements of the ideal life partner!
Here are three simple things which can earn you the right to be followed;
Connect Up Before Taking Off
One the biggest mistakes leaders make is to not connect in with the team as a starting point. This is seen by others as either not caring enough to understand or coming in with a pre-set agenda and just assuming lots of things and jumping straight into task. The best leaders I have seen have a process as part of their induction to understand; what drives the team and key individuals, what has worked in the past and hasn’t, where the team is emotionally and mentally, what the team is hoping to achieve, and what the team expects, values and needs from their leader.
Be Simple and Clear on What You Want Them To Do……..and Not Do
In today’s world of complexity, it is an art to make things simple. It is the leaders job to manage the ambiguity and chaos at their level not to transfer that down to the team. They have enough on their plate without having to interpret the direction, actions or vision that the leader wants. If you’re not clear on the direction it will decided that you are confused, lack leadership and just don’t know what to do. Still today we expect a galvanising direction from our leaders for us to get behind. Just a hint – if you need to cover this in a PowerPoint presentation with graphs and arrows it’s too complex.
Transparently Recognise Results and Behaviours That You Want
Having “all the lights on” makes it easy and clear for the team to understand what’s acceptable and expected. Many years ago, the leader of a team that I was involved in explained how he didn’t like gossip in the team. Some months later our team was having a team meeting and the leader was running slightly late, so while we waited we started to compare our good performance to another team who was under performing. The leader of our team arrived, heard what we were taking about slammed down his papers and left the room. We were in stunned silence when one of the team realised “oh he really doesn’t tolerate gossip”. From that moment on by his clear demonstration (and yes, he could have done it in a different way) we as a team stopped any form of gossiping.
Are you earning right to lead others or assuming as you run over the hill that they are naturally following?