By Jeb Blount, Author of People Follow You: The Real Secret to What Matters Most in Leadership
Leaders have tough jobs. Why? Because in most cases they bear 100 percent of the responsibility for the performance of their team yet receive little glory for their efforts. The best leaders work longer hours, endure more stress, and have greater responsibility than the people they manage.
Each day leaders must deal with emotional, and often irrational, people who demand attention. Leaders are called upon to be coaches, mentors, mothers, fathers, and amateur psychologists in order to keep their troops motivated, focused, and delivering on goals. If this isn’t hard enough, leaders are often put in the position of shielding their people from corporate policy wonks, Peter Principle executives, and bureaucrats who erect roadblocks and cause chaos in the workplace.
Today’s leaders are placed under unyielding pressure to perform. In the twenty-first-century business environment there is little patience for managers who miss their numbers. It is no longer about what you have done; it is about what you have done today.
It is a wonder why any sane human being would voluntarily choose to be a leader. Yet, each year thousands of people accept promotions, move into new offices, and proudly admire their freshly printed business cards with little understanding of what it takes to actually lead people. Ill-prepared to perform the job, a high percentage of these newly minted leaders are summarily demoted or fired.
The good news is that some of these people will become superstar managers who build and lead high-performing teams. These leaders develop their people and deliver on their goals.
Why do some people make such great leaders, while so many others fail miserably? We set out to uncover the answer to this question. We interviewed sales leaders, CEOs, and other corporate executives from a wide cross-section of industries. We pondered our own experience both as leaders and employees. Through this process we discovered that leaders who have the uncanny ability to consistently get others to perform and contribute at high levels demonstrated five core behavior patterns: The Five Levers of Leadership.
- Put People First.The leader’s primary purpose for being is helping the people they lead achieve their goals. Subjugating your own needs and desires for those of your people is the first and most important step in influencing people to follow you.
- Connect. Like all interpersonal relationships, connections bind people together on an emotional level. Great leaders drop the pretense of power and position, and instead focus on building sincere emotional connections with their people. Connecting tears down walls that tend to get in the way of real communication and understanding. When people feel connected with you, they feel more comfortable telling you their real problems, roadblocks, and issues. With this information in hand, you have the opportunity to solve problems that really matter. This provides real value for your people and engenders true loyalty. Most important, when your people feel connected to you, they will be willing to accept your training, coaching, feedback, direction, and vision, which is critical to getting them in position to win. Strong connections are hard to break and are the foundation of truly prosperous, long-term relationships built on mutual trust.
- Position Your People to Win. The most important leadership principle is that as a leader you get paid for what your people do, not what you do. As a leader, you maximize your performance by constantly and consistently focusing your attention on getting your people in position to win. This means doing whatever it takes to help your people get better through training, observation, and coaching; ensuring that people are in positions that best leverage their talents; removing roadblocks and solving problems; developing the right strategy to achieve your business targets; and developing a vision and direction your people can understand and execute. It also means learning what your people want to achieve professionally and personally, and playing a role in helping them realize those goals.
- Build Trust. Trust is the glue that holds relationships together and the foundation on which all long-term relationships rest. Trust is developed with tangible evidence that you do what you say you will do, that you keep promises, and that your behavior as a leader is professional and consistent.
- Create Positive Emotional Experiences. Just as an anchor is used to hold a ship in place against currents, wind, tide, and storm, positive emotional experiences do the same for relationships. Positive emotional experiences anchor your relationships with your people. They motivate your people to give you their best and engender intense loyalty. Loyalty is powerful because loyal people are willing to follow you anywhere and will always have your back when the going gets tough.
Despite the challenges, leadership can be incredibly rewarding. As a leader you have the opportunity to shape people and organizations. You are in a position to help others achieve their goals and dreams, and to make a lasting difference on their career, income, and family. When people choose to follow you, they are saying in no uncertain terms that they trust and believe in you. It is an amazing feeling.
The Five Levers of Leadership are a foundation to build on. These five levers keep your interpersonal relationships with your people grounded and on track. When you make these levers an integral part of your life as a leader – people will willingly follow you.
Jeb Blount is a leading expert on leadership and human behavior. He helps companies, teams, and individuals transform their organizations and accelerate performance through intense focus on interpersonal relationships. He is the author of five books including People Follow You: The Real Secret to what Matters Most in Leadership, People Buy You: The Real Secret to what Matters Most in Business, Sales Guy’s 7 Rules for Outselling the Recession, Business Expert’s Guide to Small Business Success and Power Principles. To learn more call 706-664-0810 x102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.