Let’s start by considering what the attitudes and behaviours are of effective leaders that generate followship.
When I ask people in workshops what helps them commit to any initiatives led by others, I hear comments such as these:
‘I need to trust the other person and feel they have my best interests in mind’
‘I commit if I can see a realistic plan in place with clear goals and a well-defined path – it makes me feel it’s going to work’
‘I need to feel I’ve contributed to the thinking in the project – that way I feel I own it’
‘The work needs to be seen as valuable – what’s in it for me should be clear
No surprises here. But these experiences seem to be disappointingly rare. Why should this be?
I wonder if the answer lies in the fact that many bosses feel the need to have control. They fear that, if they ask others for their opinion, they might lose that control. For example, the other person might:
- suggest something the leader doesn’t like, or
- raise an issue that risks slowing everything down.
Without a sufficient investment in building relationships with others and without sufficient involvement and consultation, many leaders struggle to get enough commitment from others to make projects succeed. It can feel like pushing water uphill! Very draining!
I talked about this with Steve Radcliffe, author of the best-selling book Leadership – Plain & Simple. Steve says there are four energies that effective leaders use, as follows:
- Intellectual – the ability to analyse clearly and present their logically and persuasively
- Emotional – an ability to connect with others and build rapport and develop a trusted relationship
- Spirit – an ability to communicate in a positive and contagious manner
- Physical – stamina to work long hours and to be able to get things done!
Steve believes that leaders benefit from managing their energy levels. He encourages leaders to consider what gives them each of these energies and what drains them?
For example, many would say that a variety of challenging projects enhances their intellectual energy and that too much repetitive work drains them. Getting a few ‘well done’s’ lifts people’s energies. Not getting any acknowledgement drains them.
From my own experience, I see too many partners walking along the corridors of their offices with the pressures of the job weighing heavily on their shoulders. I doubt this generates much followship. There’s just no spirit!
Steve also asks leaders to consider which energies their firms particularly value. For law firms I think that intellectual energy and physical energy are particularly valued, but the efforts of partners demonstrating emotional and spirit energy tend not to be fully appreciated.
So what we often see in law firms is a lack in true commitment to initiatives. There’s just grudging acceptance.
Paraphrasing the words of the inspirational Ben Zander, leader of the Boston Philharmonic, ‘If the eyes of your team members aren’t shining, first of all ask yourself, how are you being?’
Are the eyes of your team members shining? Where is the focus of your energy?
For more information about Steve’s thinking on leadership see http://www.futureengagedeliver.com/