Help Them Follow You

All too often, we hear the stories of the fallen leader. You know…the one that usually does something unethical or otherwise dumb and ends up in a very public fall from grace.  “We don’t know what happened”, they say.  “He/she seemed like such a great person”.  No one can pinpoint exactly what went wrong or when, but something happened and now the once loved, revered and respected leader has not one single ally. Embarrassment, guilt and regret now plague the once charismatic commander. You don’t want to be that guy.

“Well, how can I avoid being disgraced in such a manner”, you ask.  There are a few ways to help keep this from happening to you.  There are tried and true methods that will prevent the onset of this course of events (and no, it just doesn’t happen overnight…usually).  Most of the time, the leader’s fall was set into motion long before the fall-worthy action(s) came to light.

So anyway, one of the first ways to prevent this is to stay true to yourself and your followers.  Be honest and open.  Leaders make mistakes and they do things that don’t necessarily turn out the way they should.  Leaders are still human and its amazing how forgiving people can be if given the opportunity.  Your followers already KNOW that you are not perfect, so why do you act like you are?  Why do you pretend that you are beyond making a bad decision.  When something becomes too perfect, it becomes too good to be true (read: phony). It’s really hard for people to willing follow a person that seems fake.  Be real.  You are a person who makes mistakes! Admit it, ask for help in making a better decision and move on.

Additionally, stop acting as if your subordinates (I HATE that term….note to self, find a better word) are beyond making mistakes.  OK, he or she fudged on a project.  Address the situation, not the person.  It’s the person’s actions in the situation that turned out wrong. Judge the decision in that particular situation when evaluating or addressing what went wrong.  Overall, I am sure that the employee (sub #1 for insubordinate) had good intentions and generally does a good job at whatever it is that they fudged.  Mistakes happen! It’s an inevitability and there is nothing that anyone can do about it other than to take steps to minimize the number of mistakes.  Instead of focusing all your attention on what went wrong, figure out the root issue (i.e. a miscommunication, a misplaced attachment, incorrect data, etc.) and focus on solutions.  Solutions will not only give you a way to correct the mistake, but also ways or ideas to prevent the same and/or similar situations in the future.

You can help the followers (sub #2) keep following by knowing what you are talking about.  One of the WORST things in being an employee is having a “smarty pants” boss or supervisor that is completely clueless!  Not only is it aggravating, it also make the employee work harder than necessary.  This is especially true when the leader “does work” incorrectly.  Then you leave the poor employee in a situation to have to clean up your mess! How rude!  How do you think that makes you look?  Just in case you don’t know, when you leave, the topic of conversation is you. “He/she can’t even do my job! I should be getting paid that money”.  And just before you get on your high horse, they don’t respect you, they fear losing their job.  You are a laughing-stock.

The solution? Be real.  If you don’t know, say you don’t!  Don’t pretend that you do and go messing stuff up.  Ask questions.  They will respect you more because they feel like they were sought out  as a source of information by an important figure in the organization.  They will feel as if you don’t take them or their position for granted.  They will feel important and respected and reciprocate that respect.

I see that there is a lot to be said on this subject, so this will have to be the first part of a series!  There are quite a few things leaders can do to help their followers.  These are just the first few.  Stay tuned for more!

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