Are you the leader that everyone wishes to follow?
I have been fortunate in my career to hear members of my team say I have qualities of a leader they would voluntarily follow. But in honesty, it wasn’t always like that with me. I’ve done an awful lot of growing. I once thought I needed to know it all, have it all before I could reasonably consider myself fit or successful in a leadership role. That put a lot of pressure on me, but I got it all wrong. My reality and experiences tell a different story. Learning from tough situations has shaped my leadership today.
We have all encountered different kinds of leadership in our careers, position power leader, authoritarian leader, the laissez-faire and many more. Some styles work, others don’t.
Whichever leadership style you best acknowledge, there are some generic traits that we all agree, are good leadership attributes. You are a leader when others believe in you and follow you, to accomplish tasks that impact a generation. Your call to lead may be on a big project in a conglomerate or a small task with a business entity. It may well be with a powerful country or a small nation. Whichever the case may be, how would you as a leader, get people to follow your dreams; achieve a collective goal and more importantly have fond memories of you?
There is nothing more fulfilling than a leader who leads their people to a destination, leaving them desiring more- more projects, another tenure, a new destination- just because each day at work with the leader is a pleasurable moment they would rather not miss. Can you say same about your leadership style? Or are you the leader many would rather forget existed or led them to a destination with blistering memories of pain and anxiety?
The names of Christine Lagarde the immediate past IMF Managing Director, Jack Ma, a business magnate and politician, Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man etc will be mentioned when the thought of leaders with voluntary followers come to the fore but some may not have been given the international recognition they deserve. Winnie Mandela is a woman with conviction. Not all her actions were acceptable but on a whole she exemplified a leader who people voluntarily worked for and supported. She was such a strong character who kept the name of Nelson Mandela alive and supported the cause of liberation for South Africa. Chimanda Ngozi Adichie a renowned Nigerian author is also using the power of words to transform people in ways many thought was impossible. “The manifestation of racism has changed but the language has not”, she wrote in her famous Novel Americanah which won her many international awards. In a TED Talk Series appearance in 2018, she said: “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower and humanize. Stories can break the dignity of people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.” Her stories have broken the shackles of gender and racial stereotyping with an onward march to a freer, fairer society. Her kind of leadership is breaking grounds in several areas and in many unimaginable ways. Leaders like that are exceptional and a few character traits make them stand out. What are those character traits?
Words mean something only when they are backed by deeds. Leaders with integrity are those who say what they mean and mean what they say. They are straightforward and easier to relate with. Their words and actions are always in sync. They are not necessarily pious or without mistakes but when they are wrong, they are ready to accept responsibility.
A visionary leader has a clear understanding of where he or she is going. Such leaders may not have all that it takes to get there but they are ready to learn to acquire the knowledge they need, even from subordinates, if that is what it takes to get to their destination. They are never too arrogant to learn or too selfish to teach. They share knowledge.
A daring or audacious leader may not be liked by non-followers because in most cases such leaders challenge the status quo and make life uncomfortable for those who are comfortable. Such leaders have a cause and when they are convinced the system is unjust they are courageous enough to sacrifice everything to fix the system. Followers of such leaders are just as willing to die for the cause.
For a leader to attract voluntary followers, that leader must be ready to serve. No matter how powerful a leader is, there can be no better way to lead than to serve your followers. Service in leadership calls for empathy, better communication, humility and the willingness to stand up for your followers where necessary.
As a business executive, coach and now Entrepreneur, I endeavour to exhibit these leadership traits in my quest to coach others into becoming great leaders, in the most adverse situations. Coaching leaders is something I’m most passionate about. When I see the remarkable transformational results in the people I coach, I am further inspired to impact more people to become better leaders.
Leadership has so many elements and getting the right combination, isn’t easy, but it is possible with persistence. That combination produces outstanding results. Get in touch today for a free consultation.