Funny thing about leaders…even when they lack a title, they still influence others to become better people and improve their organizations. Former followers seek out the leader months and years after their formal leader-led relationship ends. The best leaders often find themselves providing purpose, direction and motivation to former followers who have exceeded the leaders success. Identifying everything that goes into long-term leader-follower relationship can and has filled many pages. This blog will hardly scratch the surface and instead of providing proven, empirical data about the qualities of great leaders, it seeks to encourage readers to evaluate their own leader-follower relationships to identify ways you each can become better, non-titled leaders.
There are two areas that great leaders concern themselves; caring for people and achieving results. They know that in order to make the organization successful, they need quality people who are dedicated, knowledgeable, skilled and motivated. The leader communicates the organizational goals and his or her vision for the future and turns the followers loose to use their skills and abilities to accomplish great things that move the organization in the direction of success. Once success is achieved however, the leader sets a new course, but only after acknowledging the work and sacrifices of those who followed. Along the way, the leader creates opportunities to become familiar with employees, their families, their dreams and hopes, their needs. The leader develops ways for his followers to align their personal aspirations for growth with the growth of the organization. As the organization achieves success, so does the employee encouraging greater dedication.
Each great leader develops her personal style to learn about their followers and to communicate how their desires and abilities intertwine with those of the organization. Some leaders throw parties for their employees on their birthdays. Others use group training activities. Some dedicate a few moments each day to speak to their people and ask about important personal and professional issues. In every case, the interaction between the leader and follower is personalized in some way. The follower comes to believe the leader personally cares for them and their situation. If faked the facade quickly tumbles causing major problems for the organization.
After the American Civil War, Robert E Lee returned to the south to live a quite life. He was one of the best loved military commanders in the Nation’s history. Throughout the war he showed concern for his soldiers at all levels. For years after the war his followers sought him out for letters of reference, financial assistance and inspiration. It is said that he never refused a request of a veteran of his Army if he could fulfill it. Lee’s obligation to his men ceased the day he surrendered and dismissed the troops. His caring continued until he died.
Great leaders have two important concerns. Success of their organization and success of their people. They understand that unless the aspirations of employees are tied to the vision of the organization, neither will be truly successful. Leaders inspire their employees to succeed by learning their dreams, concerns and desires and find ways to align them with those of the vision and mission of the organization. When employees achieve success in their positions within the organization, the organization become more successful. Great leaders extend their influence long after formal relationships end because they genuinely care for the people they lead.
Photo Credit: National Archives. Retrieved from: http: // www. flickr. com/photos/usnationalarchives/4176668765/sizes/o/in/photostream/ 10/29/13