Why Would Anyone Follow You?

Why is it that certain leaders stand out head and shoulders above the rest in that people want to follow them?

Recently the Harvard Business Review published their list of the top 100 CEO’s in the world. These leaders had achieved long-term profitability for their organizations. To some results may be the only significant metric of leadership success. But what would motivate a person to consistently want to be led by these people?

It boils down to the fact that there is much more to effective leadership than financial results.

Many years ago one of my friends sat in on the first press interview with Nelson Mandela after he was released from prison. When Mr. Mandela entered the room there was a hushed silence. When he spoke, often in a soft but deliberate manner, the whole audience hung onto his every word. Despite the historical significance of this interview where he was being heard after years in exile, Nelson Mandela captured peoples’ attention because of one factor alone,

Leadership Presence.

And that leadership presence continues until this day.

Over the years organizations have referred leaders to me with one mandate “Help them have more of a leadership presence”

The challenge in talking about executive presence is that it is not easy to define. Remember the old TV commercial: “When E. F. Hutton speaks, everyone listens”?

What is the “it” factor of executive effectiveness?

1.    A capacity to attune. I personally knew a CEO who made authentic connections with everyone from lunchroom employees to board members. They all felt “special” in his presence. Not only did he remember their names but he also cared about important details of their lives. He also had highly developed listening skills and high social intelligence.

2.   A good character. Would we want to be on a winning cycling team if our captain was encouraging everyone to “dope”? Would we want to be part of a political operation if our candidate had glaring moral flaws? By the same token we gladly follow leaders with a moral center that points us to our innate “true north”.

3.   A collaborative spirit. Some leaders are like rock stars. They dazzle everyone with their personality and performance. But at the end of the day it is their mission that matters and not ours. Great leaders have great teams.

4.   A clear message. The greatest leaders I know communicate their message in concise and compelling ways. And the factor that compels everyone is that the message touches an emotional nerve tied to the inspirational needs of each employee.

With all four of the above qualities you have what it takes to be anything from a good to a great leader. Without them you may get results for the shareholders but your followers will not go to the wall for you or be inspired by your leadership. And in the end the results of your organization will suffer as well.

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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