As a young child, one of the games that we would frequently play in the neighborhood when we had a gathering of children of diverse ages and athletic abilities was “Follow the Leader.” It could be as simple or complex as we wanted it to be, and everyone from the three year old to the nine year old could play it together. As a young parent, I played the game with my own children, though I frequently had a hidden agenda and it became a way to pick up toys or walk through a grocery store. But there is a big difference between playing “Follow the Leader” and being a leader that people want to follow. As an adult I have too frequently found myself following a leader, only because it was my job to do so.
Recently, I asked a group of people “What is it about a leader that makes people want to follow them?” Here are some of the responses:
“I'm a proponent of servant leadership. A good servant leader is "first among equals," reaches out to others, and is always willing to listen. She maintains integrity, demonstrates humility, and serves with the organization's mission in mind. She is also a visionary, displaying creativity and foresight. She is worthy of respect, inspires confidence, accepts and delegates responsibility, and creates a culture of accountability.” -Mid-level Manager and Community Leader
“I tend to follow someone who is inspiring and motivating and shows passion for what he or she does. To me the most inspiring leaders are those that truly believe in what they do, and they are enthusiastic about sharing that knowledge and love with others. It always motivates me to do better and aspire to be like that person.” -Manager and Community Leader
“Caring for other people; ethics; enthusiasm for their job; willingness to pitch in and do everything to make the task easier; willing to do anything within the company (nothing beneath them); punctual; a good listener; thanks others for tasks done; asks ahead of time when something is needed; no inflated ego and not a "control freak"; kindness, and willing to take the time for ALL staff members, not just the chosen few.” -Retired Public Service Employee
“A leader inspires others to action through their own strength of convictions, their integrity of actions, their confidence in themselves, and their belief in the abilities of those whom they lead. A true leader has vision, can communicate its purpose to others so that their commitment is to that end, and takes initiative that paves the way.” -Mid-level Manager
Do you see someone with whom you loved to work in these quotes? Do you see yourself or the leader you aspire to be? Leadership opportunities are all around—you just need to take that first step forward.
Karen Goodlett, SPHR