Everyone wants more followers. Very few know how to lead. Even fewer have earned the right to be followed.
100 days ago, I began this long and meandering journey of writing one essay each day, with the mission of teaching anyone who would read them how to lead well.
101 days ago, I set the stage for this series with the ten words at the top of the page. Based on everything I’ve seen on social media recently, and how it has translated to everyday life, I felt that not only did I need to put a ripple into space-time, but space-time needed a ripple.
It’s no secret that the world has been mired in one of the worst leadership crises in recent memory. Today, we are no better. And if you’ve read many of my essays in this series, you might have an idea why. You may have also gathered that most leadership problems stem from the same source: self-interested people.
Self-interested people are everywhere. Many are found in the highest levels of leadership around the world. These are what I call hierarchical leaders who expect their subordinates to respect and obey them simply because of their status. These are the types of leaders we must stand up to, and eventually push out.
How we push them out is a topic for another essay, but many of these leaders manage to stay in place because most people today do not know what good leadership looks like, or are too lazy to care.
No one wants to pay the price for being a leader. And no one wants to pay the price for finding a good leader. So we settle for the default. Hence why I took the effort to write and publish these essays every single day for over 14 weeks.
I wrote many of the essays with a specific handful of people in mind. Some public figures, and some people that I’ve had the fortunate chance to learn from over the years (both good and bad). I’ve always thought: if I’ve experienced such bad leadership from my own superiors, imagine how much bad leadership is out there in the world.
I’m lucky enough to have had the opportunity to rise into leadership positions myself, work to correct the mistakes of those I’ve dealt with in the past, and write at length about those experiences.
I’ve made my share of mistakes and made plenty of wrong decisions. By no means do I profess to be the perfect leader. But I’ve seen and experienced enough to have come to the realization of why most leaders fail, or at the every least, lack competence: many leaders simply haven’t earned the right to be followed.
When a leader hasn’t earned the right to be followed, people are forced to follow the leader out of necessity. When people follow a leader out of necessity, it becomes fertile ground for tense relations, insubordination, and a loss of hope. Morale sinks and the focus moves away from the collective mission. The engine of the organization runs without oil, and so the vehicle must inevitably come to a screeching halt.
These kinds of serious problems plague all levels of leadership. But we’ve come too far to leave our 100 Days of Leadership on a cynical note. There are, contrary to wide belief, that there are truly good leaders out there, most of whom we do not see because they do not call attention to themselves.
If you want to effortlessly earn your team’s trust, commitment, and cooperation, if you want to earn the right to be followed, here are three specific things you can do immediately:
- Follow through on your word. Being consistent in both your words and your deeds builds trust. Even if your word’s intent isn’t very noble, if you always follow through and act on what you say, your people will always know what to expect. And if they can trust you, they will likely give you more reason to trust them. This is how quality relationships are formed.
- Own up to your mistakes. (Note the power of reciprocation. It has its fingerprints all over 100 Days of Leadership): Everyone makes mistakes. If you own your responsibility and own your mistakes, your people will most likely do the same. And those who don’t, shouldn’t have a place on your team in the first place.
- Remember the ultimate goal of leadership. (I wrote this way back in essay #3, and it has stood the test of 97 more essays):
- “To move individuals as a cohesive unit towards a clear and unified purpose, all the while bringing out the best in each by training and mentoring them until they themselves are suited to be leaders.”
For the world to have a bright future, we need leaders who are willing to do the hard things. We need leaders who are okay with being held fully accountable. We need leaders who are willing to tell the truth, always.
We need leaders who have an eye on the destination of those they lead, not a self-serving destination for themselves. We need leaders who live the long game. We need leaders who seek to build more leaders.
Don’t expect to be followed just because you’re a leader. Earn the right to be followed.
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