There is almost an endless review of what makes a great leader. No matter whether you pick up a management text book, read a management journal, attend a management training course or read the business section of a broadsheet, there will be an article about leadership, mainly about the attributes needed or the actions to avoid.
In my opinion, after studying and observing leadership in many parts of the world, the best leaders have great followers, staff who are prepared to go the extra mile to make things really happen. But people are not really like sheep and they won’t follow their leader aimlessly, they need to be won over. So how do leaders win over their staff? Well I am sure a lengthy list could be produced, but I want to concentrate on what I consider to be the most important things a leader should do.
The absolute key for any leader is to gain the trust of his or her staff and to do so you need to give them freedom to work, responsibility and even allow them to fail as long as they are going forward. However, staff do need direction, goals need to be agreed jointly and they need to be deliverable. Priorities need to be small in number so that they are seen as special and correct focus and action applied. A coaching approach is likely to build positive relationships in a supportive manner so that results can be achieved successfully.
Most managers I know could rank their subordinates best to last in a matter of minutes, but in achieving great followers the leader should treat everyone equally. That, of course, doesn’t mean that everyone is treated the same, but they must feel and believe that they receive equal treatment. In practical terms there should be no favourites, in aspirational terms everyone should be a favourite. In my experience difficult employees often have quite valuable input to make and leaders who want to attract great followers will need to be really first class communicators, both imparting messages and listening to feedback and views to help make better decisions. There must be value in all staff and there will be in a great team.
The last matter I want to deal with is the personal level. Good leaders will attract the support they need if they know their subordinates as people, but you don’t need to be their best friend as on occasions the formality of the work situation could be impaired if the personal relationship is too strong.
If you take on board some of this advice I think you will become a much better leader and will attract great followers.
Dr Hugh Billot
Group Managing Director
HR GO plc
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