Who made you the boss? How to convince others to follow you

Monday, November 2, 2015 - 17:09

By Hamish Williams

It’s a fair question and one that many managers would be well served in stopping on occasion to consider. If you want to stump a room full of executives, try asking them why anyone should listen to them. “Because I’ve been here for the past 15 years and I’ve made this company what it is today,” is likely to be at least one of their responses.

And while that may provide some measure of credibility, the real reason anyone should be in a leadership position isn’t because of their past performances but their potential for future performance. Anyone can look retrospectively at an organisation’s journey and make informed decisions about what the immediate next step should be. But how do you create a strategic long-term plan for the future and of more importance, how do inspire others to follow you?

Whether you’re leading a team of three people or 3000, there are some crucial behaviours that will determine how successful you are in getting others to follow you. We’ve already mentioned strategic vision as this is the vital ticket to the game in terms of basic leadership attributes. Without a clear direction, there is nowhere for you to lead your followers to. Basic human psychology dictates that people need to feel “part of a movement” if they are to be motivated in carrying out their daily tasks.

Authority, whether granted or earnt, is the other obvious attribute that a leader must possess before they can ably mobilise their teams and organisations. Failure to establish and maintain authority is one of the main causes of ineffective leadership. This is, without surprise, the most commonly difficult attribute to establish for newly promoted frontline managers as they seek to position themselves in the minds of their colleagues.

Once the core factors of vision, authority and energy have been established, there are some other unexpected qualities that many successful leaders have proven to exhibit. The first is that they strategically and selectively show their weaknesses. While this may be seen as a risk to their authority, by exposing some vulnerability, they reveal their approachability and humanity.

Another often overlooked behaviour is the ability rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and course of actions. A successful leader’s ability to collect and interpret soft data helps them know just when and how to act. Soft data is made up of information about things that are difficult to measure such as people's opinions, attitudes and feelings.

Empathy is also incredibly valuable as inspirational leaders empathise passionately and realistically with people, and they care intensely about the work their employees and direct reports do. This isn’t about micro-managing the tasks of employees as it is more about showing that the work that every employee does isn’t overlooked or unimportant.

Many people will talk about charisma being one of the intangibles of a great leader but what is more attainable and just as is effective is the way in which they reveal their differences. They capitalise on what’s unique about themselves, not in the same way as they reveal their weaknesses, but in a way that sets them apart in their follower’s minds from other leaders they may have experienced. This helps to remove unconscious bias about the type of leader they could be deemed similar to by carving out their own unique niche or leadership style.

There is no silver bullet however for ensuring your success as a leader but it is worthy of noting that successful leaders are focused on their own continuous education and improvement and do not see themselves as a finished product. Leading by example and with humility are age old traits that should be the first pieces of weaponry used in an effective leadership arsenal.

AIM’s New Supervisor short course provides you with the foundational knowledge and skills to effectively make the transition from teammate to leader. With a focus on effective communication, team performance and workplace relationship management, you'll learn the tools and techniques you need to get started in your management career.

This course is right for you if you're a first-time manager, or you'd like to increase your potential for promotion into a leadership role. Your employer will benefit because as you’ll gain the necessary skills to become a highly capable and successful team leader. For information on how to book yourself or one of your team members into this popular program, please visit www.aim.com.au/courses/new-supervisor

The New Supervisor Program can be done as a two day standalone personal development program or as part of the new AIM Certificate IV in Leadership and Management