True Test of Leadership

Someone once said, “The true test of leadership: turn around and see if anyone is following you.” I agree, but would caution you to consider the following. Having a person follow your direction is important; however, why they are following you will either positively or negatively affects your long term results. My former secretary, who passed away several years ago, once said to me: “I’ve worked for directors, managers, supervisors, line leaders, team leaders, and every management position in this company but I have never worked for a leader.” So to every person in a leadership position ask yourself these two questions: Is anyone following me, and why are they following?

One time I was asked what I felt the difference was between two college football coaches. I replied, “When you go to Mike’s practices his players run because they have to; however, when you go to Lou’s practices his players run because they want to.” Many people show up to work every day, do their job, and by appearance we would say they are following the leader. I’m never amazed anymore when a CEO or President of a company is frustrated with turn over and can’t understand why so many good, well trained employees leave their organizations. They give reasons including compensation, competition, and even their age; however, they rarely see it as a leadership problem. Leadership isn’t about titles, positions, or flowcharts. Leadership is influence. Your influence potential will determine your leadership potential. It is critical to have people following you because they want to, not because they feel they have to. To accomplish that begin by doing the following.

Lead – by focusing on your people not your bottom line. Managers manage things and leaders lead people. Your goal shouldn’t be to build a big bottom line but to develop good people. People quickly figure out whether you are leading them or using them.

Enlarge – by adding value to a person. People will always move toward anyone who increases them. People are dynamic and must be led through love and relationship.  A good leader is a person who can step on your toes without messing up your shine.

Appreciate – by never taking anyone or anything for granted. You cannot maintain high quality people and products unless they are managed with compassion and care. Leadership is about influencing people and appreciating their efforts.

Dependable – by always doing whatever it takes. People will listen to what you say but will be influenced by what you do. Your actions must match your beliefs, or as someone once said, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.”

Enthusiastic – by making sure your attitude outdistances your abilities. When you learn from others, assist others and have fun doing it, you will have more enthusiasm for what you do. People are mesmerized by power but moved by enthusiasm.

Recognize – by focusing on improvement not just achievement. As a leader you tend to set “the” bar and only recognize those people who go above it. You tend to recognize and confront negative behavior more often and in a bigger way than you do any type of positive behavior. Begin to recognize and reward improvement and watch them grow.

Solver – by allowing your mistakes to stretch you not stop you. A leader must be big enough to admit their mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. Teach people to resolve problems not to endure them.

Honesty – by doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. An infrastructure of great character is built from the top down. The trust of your followers is directly proportionate and parallel to the level of your own character.

Involvement – by caring enough to know and knowing enough to care. It is good when people believe in their leader, but it is better when the leader believes in the people. To know you is to trust you. Make sure they know who they’re following.

Patient – by making everything a process and not an event. Failing allows you to mentor and begin again more intelligently. If a mistake is not immoral or fundamentally undermining to the direction of the organization, view it as a learning experience and an investment for your future.

© Steve Gilliland  All rights reserved.


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