By Susan M. Heathfield
Leaders are hard to find. They exhibit a unique blend of charisma, vision and character traits that attract people to follow them. They exhibit the other nine characteristics around which this article series was developed.
Leaders recognize the need to attract followers. Followership has recently been studied as a key to understanding leadership. To follow, people must feel confidence in the direction in which the leader is headed. They are enabled and empowered to do their part in accomplishing the stated objectives.
Further, leaders people follow are accountable and trustworthy. If progress towards accomplishing the goals ceases, the leader takes responsibility to analyze the problem – he doesn’t search for people to blame. So people can have confidence that their efforts won’t be punished if they take reasonable and responsible risks.
Followers need to believe that, at the end of the journey, they will be recognized and rewarded for their contribution. The leader must help followers answer the question, “What’s in it for me”? Successful leaders are honest about the potential risks inherent in the chosen path. They communicate, not just the overall direction, but any information followers need to successfully and skillfully carry out their responsibilities.
Occasionally, the leader is the person who is in charge, the founder of the business, the CEO, the president or department head. Leadership qualities combined with positional power magnify the ability of an individual to attract the all-important followers. In fact, business owners can count on a certain amount of respect and followership based on their ownership and title. Longevity, too, plays a role in attracting and retaining followers. People who have followed the leader for ten years will continue to follow unless they lose trust in the leader’s direction.
Characteristics of a Successful Leadership Style
Much is written about what makes successful leaders. I will focus on the characteristics, traits and actions that, I believe, are key.
- Choose to lead.
- Be the person others choose to follow. (Current article - you are here.)
- Provide vision for the future.
- Provide inspiration.
- Make other people feel important and appreciated.
- Live your values. Behave ethically.
- Set the pace through your expectations and example.
- Establish an environment of continuous improvement.
- Provide opportunities for people to grow, both personally and professionally.
- Care and act with compassion.