Hearing Lao Tzu one can figure out what was found important long ago: "I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men."
How about today?
The Gallup informs us that the ‘vision thing’ pales in comparison to instilling trust, compassion, stability, and hope when debating what followers expect from their leaders.
Is it any different from the past?
I do not think so, just the wording is kind of more puzzled when reading ancient texts. What I understand is that followers expect a lot from their leaders. When they don’t get what they expect the first thing they begin to lose is trust and respect for their leader.
What I would expect from the followers is their hope for leaders to have greater emotional intelligence – what Daniel Goleman has already introduced in the previous century. With it a leader connects more intuitively with his followers. But this connection is never one way. Followers anticipate to be heard, understood and given enough attention to feel that their contributions and opinions matter. They envisage a leader to become opportunity enabler and an exceptional coach for them to help improve their performance.
We live in a world where technology has changed how we work, how we travel, how we live. But, at the same time we became also very dependent on technology. Imagine a day without electricity? No way!
Technology assists us towards collaboration but also creates more complications. We all, especially the followers, have more choices to make and therefore need more guidance rather than distance from the leaders. On the other side leaders have a wider span of control today than they did in the past due to those technological advances.
Living in globally connected world our leadership spams over the cultures. This brings diversity in our play. Our global multi-national companies or customers bring in diversity as well. Most likely the followers have values which are different from the ones of their leaders. Understanding these values and how a leader can relate to them helps a leader to create a connection of significant relationship with his (her) followers.
Diversity deals with the need for identity and without understanding that a leader can further complicate his ability to be successful in his relationship with the followers. Diversity focuses on the unique individual or follower and highlights differences and potentially conflicting agendas which then all bring more complexity in a relationship.
Not understanding diversity issues and up to the followers’ need is why so many employees feel stuck and experience regret in their careers.
To complicate the story even further, the leadership requires an understanding of oneself before being able to lead. Only then a leader can effectively comprehend, appreciate and leverage the unique skill-sets, competencies and opinions of others.
Finally, leadership is all about people. If leaders begin to lose touch with those they lead – followers will become disconnected.
It is said that the compliance of the followers is the mirror image of successful leadership.
So, when you lead, remember Barbara Kellerman words "Followers are more important to leaders than leaders are to followers."
Would you agree?