A line of horseback riders following the leader.

Why do people follow? More importantly, why would people follow you?

Anybody can be a leader. Really. From top-line CEO to front-line employee, anybody can be a leader in your organization. In fact, everyone in your organization should be a leader and should think like a CEO.  As authors, Tom Rath and Barry Conchieso eloquently write in Strengths Based Leadership,  “a leader charging forward without followers is just out for a walk.” Great leadership involves many factors but one of the most critical discovered by the folks at Gallup is giving your followers what they need so that they can feel confident following you. What should you be giving your team if you want them to follow you – and others to follow them? How do you encourage your team to step up and be leaders too? If you haven’t asked yourself this question recently, it’s a good time of year to do so as you’re working on refining your plans and it’s essential if becoming a better leader is one of your aspirations. So what do effective leaders give their teams to get them to follow? What do followers actually want from their leaders?

Here are the four ‘basic needs of followers that Gallup found in their research:

1. Trust

The basis of all solid, well-functioning, relationships. The ability to trust a leader is essential to cultivate followers – and the one requirement that successful leaders cannot afford to take for granted. In a high-trust environment, not only is there less organizational “chatter”, but tasks will get done more quickly – with a lot less effort and time. But creating a trusting relationship isn’t always simple according to Robert Shaw, the author of Trust in the Balance He outlines three critical factors to consider when determining how trustworthy someone is.

First, a leader needs to deliver results in a quality manner. They need to follow through on business commitments and hold others accountable to their commitments.  Second, a leader needs to demonstrate integrity. They need to behave in a consistent, reliable manner, be open with information and walk the talk when it comes to ethics and values.  And third, they need to show a concern for others and promote the well-being of their team members.  And trust is multiplicative. When any one of these factors is missing, the equation goes to zero.

How are you delivering on the three factors of trust?  What would your team members say?

2. Compassion

People want leaders who care about them as people. According to the Gallup research, when 10,000 employees were asked what great leaders contributed to their lives, they said, “caring, friendship, happiness, and love.” Question 5 on the Gallup survey of employee engagement is, “Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?” When people feel as if someone cares, not only are they more engaged and productive, but they’ll stay around longer – certainly something you want as a leader – especially if you’re talking about an A player! What kind of environment are you creating in your company? How do you show your business colleagues that you care about them as people?

3. Stability

Security, strength, support, and peace. Those were the words used in the surveys Gallup conducted. People want some sense of stability in their work environment. In chaotic times, this can be challenging for leaders to provide. But this desire echoes the consistency theme. In order for trust to exist, People need to know that a leader has a firm grip on the rudder even in the midst of a storm – it promotes “followership”. Financial stability is a crucial part of this need for security. Leaders can provide this stability if they choose to be open with their plans and especially if there’s some form of Open Book Management practice in place at the company. (Even if it’s a work-in-progress used to educate people on the basics of financials so that they can understand what they’re learning.) How are you providing a sense of stability in your company? What information are you sharing to give people confidence about the business and how often are you sharing it?

4. Hope

Finally, followers want to know there is a future and direction for the company. The most engaged employees that Gallup surveyed were the ones that had faith in their leaders’ visions, generating both optimism as well as higher productivity. Without hope, uncertainty and paralysis can take the upper hand.  And if you’re only working on the day to day, there’s no time to create a bigger picture for your followers. How are you sharing your vision for the future with your team?  When you have an all-hands meeting, do you ask them what they’re hearing?

If you don’t have a vision or if it’s unclear even to you, maybe it’s time to get one!

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