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Leadership Lessons from Your Followers: A Wrap-Up and a Warning

This lesson is a part of an audio course Leadership Lessons from Your Followers by Andy Edwards

A word of warning…

If you immediately start doing everything I have suggested in this course tomorrow, don't expect results the next day, or even day three or four.

As the great Simon Sineck says, leadership is like going to the gym. Work out on day one for forty minutes and you will see no result. Try again tomorrow – still no result. After a week has passed and you have worked out every day, not only is there no discernible result but you actually hurt!

It's at this point that many people give up (going to the gym OR being a brilliant leader).

I have lost count of how many leaders have come to me after a few days of trying out these ideas and tell me:

"I tried all those things you said, and they didn't work!"

What they fail to realize is that it is only after a long period of consistent day to day activities – each activity having no apparent effect, that something changes. It takes time.

There is no given day that it suddenly starts working, BUT, looking back over a period of time (usually at least six months to a year), you will realize how far you have come. And, more importantly, you will see the tangible benefits and improvements in your followers.

They will look forward to team meetings and relish their one-to-one time with you because you are honest, transparent, and treat them as an individual. They will take constructive feedback from you as an opportunity to improve. Morale is higher, fewer sick days, fewer people leaving. You have their back and they have yours.

In other words, they're starting to think of you as their leader.

Consistency, not intensity.

You can't work out at a gym for two days and expect a ripped body. You've got to put in the work. Suffer a few aches and pains. But you fundamentally know that the result will be worth it. Not on a given day, but over a period of time.

Consistency. Little, apparently inconsequential leadership actions every day; little and often. That's the path to world-class exemplary leadership (and a bunch of followers who would die for you).

So remember to solve these seven sins, these seven problems – these seven FAILURES of leadership. And, whilst pretty comprehensive, this is not an exhaustive list. But most complaints about leaders are symptoms and these can be traced back to one of these seven. Here they are:

  1. Failing to set out a clear aim, raison d'être, or mission for the team. Without a clear purpose, team members (your followers) have no direction and potentially embark down different paths, squabbling over priorities.

  2. Failing to meet individually with each and every team member AT LEAST once a month. Without regular, ringfenced quality time with your followers, they start to feel ignored and unimportant.

  3. Failing to act on or "close the loop" on requests and issues raised individually or collectively. If you don't close the loop your followers feeling ignored and dismissed. If you fail to get back to them, they will grow agitated and yet passive, feeling powerless to make a difference.

  4. Failing to elicit (or even being open to) challenge. If you fail at this hurdle, productivity suffers when you are not present… and discretionary effort drops to non-existent.

  5. Failing to be specific in their positive and constructive feedback. Followers don't understand what "excellent" or even "good" looks like and so seek to maintain the lowest common denominator. Productivity and morale are compromised.

  6. Failing to appreciate/give credit for individual and collective effort and say "Thank you". Team members will feel less appreciated and give less back, dropping to the lowest acceptable work ethic, lacking in confidence, validation, and camaraderie.

  7. Failing to maintain visibility/communication in general. This failure leads to followers feeling abandoned and losing respect for their leader. They "double guess" what's REALLY going on with you…

And now for a bonus lesson… I wasn't going to add it but a client of mine reviewed this course and pretty much demanded that I include it… She said that it made such a difference to her leadership and the productivity, morale, and loyalty of her staff. So, Katy, the inclusion of my final lesson is for you.

Do you want to hear what made the difference to Katy? Final lesson!

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Written by

Andy Edwards