Why do people follow leaders – and what do they want from their leaders. Most people want leaders who inspire them and who they believe in – but what does this break down into.
The requirements have evolved and continue to do, as the power of coercion has decreased, the extent to which our organisations and leaders and their every action are open to public scrutiny and workforces become more mobile.
Below is our suggestion for a contemporary list of requirements.
Vision: An ability to grasp and articulate the bigger picture – both to their team and the outside World is a key facet of most great leaders. People want to work in an environment and with leaders who can demonstrate they know where the organisation is going, how that fits into the World and that it is aspirational and inspirational.
Delivery: Along with vision a belief that our leaders can muster and choreograph the delivery of their vision is also a critical trait. This does not mean that great leaders must always get involved in the detail of management – but being able to build around them the right team to deliver is critical. Leaders who consistently articulate a vision but make no progress towards delivering it will soon see their power base ebb away.
Decisiveness: We like to feel that our leaders can be decisive, and see them being decisive. This ranges across anything from deciding on the vision, to putting the right team in place to deliver – but also being decisive when things need to be changed – whether that is people, resources or direction.
Integrity: People want to be able to trust and admire their leaders – which increasingly requires integrity. There are two facets to this. If a person perceives a lack of trustworthiness in their leaders how can they feel safe near them or in an organisation run by them? Secondly if a person is not convinced of the integrity of their leader and the way they lead the organisation, how can they have pride in that organisation.
Fairness/Consistency: Great leaders can take tough decisions – make sacrifices, reallocate priorities, get rid of poor performing players – but to retain a true following the modern leader needs to be seen to be fair in doing this. Teams eventually accept tough decisions, they will grow to resent mercurial decision making.
Awareness: The French have a phrase “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – most people will recognise the anglicised version “The more things change the more they stay the same”. Awareness used to be being politically aware, reading the runes, if you will, knowing which way the tide was flowing, or about to flow. The means by which leaders gain awareness may have changed – but leaders still need to demonstrate that they have an awareness of their organisation and its surroundings.
So if you are aiming to be a great leader it is worth taking stock and checking – do I have the above – and equally importantly am I living and demonstrating I have them.