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Followership made simple

Why would anyone want to follow you? We know that, in the most part, people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. Leaders who care about followership make people WANT to see them, rather than DREAD seeing them.

It is very easy to demonstrate what makes people WANT to follow you. Everyone has had an experience of what it is to be well led or poorly led. When I engage with audiences we conduct an exercise where people vocalise their own experiences. We ask them, “Describe the BEST boss you have ever worked with,” and, “Describe the WORST boss you have ever worked with.” The feedback is unanimous and the same the world over. It all comes down to character and how leaders make their people feel. Character can be simply defined as “the moral qualities distinctive of an individual”. I have gathered this feedback from around the world, with multi-functional, cross- hierarchical, culturally diverse groups and consistently this is what is evidenced.

Best bosses and worst bosses display these distinct qualities in Figure 1.

Fellowership Figure 1

Nearly always, leaders are promoted because of their technical expertise. Always, this gets in the way of their doing the leadership stuff. A few years back, I worked with an executive on her leadership priorities. She was clinging on to her technical expertise. She said, “This leadership stuff is very interesting, but is getting in the way of my day job.” I replied, “The leadership stuff is your day job.”

11 “day job” behaviours for leaders who want to retain high performing effective followers and get people to do more together with a high morale.

1. Display selfless commitment. Support rather than direct.
2. Show up with confidence. When people to the left and right of you are struggling, confidence is reduced.
3. Keep calm. Always. “Officers don’t run because it frightens the troops.”
4. Give people a sense of purpose. Every day.
5. Catch people doing something right.
6. Display moral courage. Do what is right.
7. Practise self-discipline. Best described as doing what you don’t want to do when no one is looking.
8. Seek opportunities to be visible. Make sure people see you give a damn.
9. Let go of your technical competence. Make leadership your day job.
10. Demonstrate random acts of kindness. Welfare towards even a few rubs off on the others.
11. Fairness is your trump card. It is not about being, absolutely equal but rather about treating your people without favouritism or discrimination.

When applied these simple essentials produce better results … measurably. Absenteeism is reduced. Costs are reduced. Sales increase. People are retained and you get people to do more together. It is not what is “new” but what is “true” that unlocks the potential within your organisation.

Craig Preston is the Managing Director of Inspirational Development Group (IDG) based in London.

This article appeared in the October 2017 issue of HR Future magazine.

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