How to become a leader others choose to follow

Step up into the leader you want to be, and by doing so, give permission to others to do the same

How to become a leader others choose to follow

We are well and truly living through a year of massive disruption. The macro challenges of a global economic downturn, health pandemic and the knock-on impact on social dynamics is challenging every one of us as we navigate ourselves and others, through and out of the other side to a re-imagined future.

Leadership and what we’re asking of leaders—of you—has shifted.

The demands are real. 

Your teams, the people looking to be led by you, are looking to leaders to replace feelings on ongoing disconnection with connection; to replace the complexity of fractured living and working with clarity and to replace ongoing anxiety and fear with a sense of calm.  We want our leaders to provide hope for a future as well as pave the way; to be decisive in their decision making, yet to do this with compassion; and ultimately keep us on track with the work that needs to be done, right now, and yet open and flexible to the ongoing change that is needed. 

As I said, the demands are real.

What sort of leader are you really?

Are you a leader simply because of your job title or position on an organisation chart or are you a leader because others choose to follow you?

Do you behave in a way that is congruent to what you think?

Does your body language and behaviours match what you are saying?

Are you truly building trust or are you behaving superficially just to get the job done?

If you think leadership is all about achieving results, managing project plans and developing strategies, then you’ve got it all wrong.  Granted the metrics matter, more importantly it’s about how you magnify the people around you and how you share more of yourself to enable others to choose to follow you and to shine in their own brilliance. As Richard S Wellins, senior vice president at management consulting firm DDI says, ‘As a leader your focus changes; your number one priority is to bring out the best in others’.

Unleash your leadership brilliance

Leaders needs to:

  • be restless, curious and open to opportunity; evolve and try new things; be looking out for ‘what’s next’ at all times
  • be okay about combining your emotional intelligence with economic intelligence and smarts
  • care for the people around you and not just the numbers—you don’t want to achieve the number at the detriment of the people around you, surely?
  • balance quick thinking and decision-making with a willingness to be flexible and open to change
  • be agile, ready, willing and able to keep up with the speed of change
  • understand almost perfect is perfect—you don’t have to get everything right the first time
  • collaborate more and be less mindful of hierarchy and position
  • be willing to meet people where they’re at, share, mentor others, guide and take a step back
  • take an honest and open approach
  • create leaders in others and leadership around them
  • trust yourself: have a self-belief and inner confidence about the value you’re bringing.
  • share your stories—the ones of success and the ones of failure; let others see you.

Nothing to hide, nothing to lose and nothing to prove

I love these words by retired veteran Ron Harvey: ‘Nothing to hide, nothing to lose and nothing to prove’. This is where leaders create the space where people don’t have to hide behind titles, positions or something that’s fearful. Where they don’t have to worry about having something to lose by feeling incompetent and where there’s an open environment of learning and debate, of openness to change and difference, where no-one has anything to prove.

Be a leader others choose to follow. Go on, choose to be brilliant, to step up into the leader you want to be, and by doing so, give permission to others to do the same.

Janine Garner is the author of Be Brilliant how to lead a life of influence (Wiley) and is a global thought leader on powerful networking, collaboration and transformational leadership.

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