Would You Follow You?

leadershipPeople are pretty interesting to study. So many people from so many places, so many different cultures, backgrounds, and histories. So many differences.

But even in a world of differences there are some things that we can find most everyone has in common, and one of those common factors is that the majority of people hold others to a higher standard than they hold themselves.

And that’s likely a key reason why most people are not authentic leaders. Authentic leaders, the type that we would all follow, hold themselves to a higher standard than they hold others.

Most people have high expectations for themselves but authentic leaders do not merely have high expectations, they have high standards. We may expect much of ourselves but we also provide ourselves with many excuses that authentic leaders simply don’t need. Authentic leaders don’t make excuses, they make commitments to excellence.

Authentic leaders know that people tend to “follow up”, they follow people they want to be like or they follow someone they believe sets an example of who they could become. No one “follows down”, they don’t follow people that they would not want to be like or people that they cannot trust.

When someone with a leadership title or in a position of leadership holds themselves to lower standards than they hold others they lose the trust of their people and they lose the ability to truly lead.

So there is our question: Would you follow you? Do you expect more from others than you expect from yourself? Do you hold others to a higher standard than you hold yourself?
Do you allow yourself excuses that you would not allow others? Are the majority of your mistakes “excusable” but not the mistakes of others?

In order to properly answer those questions you must be completely honest with yourself because if you’re lying to yourself, you’re also lying to everyone else.

Excellent, experienced, authentic leaders pause from time to time to ask themselves those very questions. If they don’t like the answers, they take immediate steps to change them.

An authentic leader has no other choice.

9 thoughts on “Would You Follow You?

  1. One of the best posts on leadership I’ve read in quite some time, Steve. I love these two sentences:

    “Authentic leaders, the type that we would all follow, hold themselves to a higher standard than they hold others.”

    “Most people have high expectations for themselves but authentic leaders do not merely have high expectations, they have high standards.”

    And then that question: “Would you follow you?” Simple, inspiring, and super-challenging all at the same time.

    I’m striving to be the type of leader I would follow. Thanks for the encouragement and challenge to stick with it!

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Steve. You’re making a difference!

    • Thanks for the kind words Kent. I think one of the bigger mistakes that even experienced leaders, maybe especially experienced leaders can make is to assume they are still leading today simply because they were leading yesterday.

      Leadership begins again each day and any day we take leading others for granted may well be our lag day as authentic leaders.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the blog, it was as much a reminder to myself as it was to anyone else. 🙂

  2. audraaugust says:

    What a great question and thought provoking post, Steve! These are exactly the types of questions that we need to ask ourselves. Its no longer sustainable for organizations to have leaders in place that aren’t really leading. We have a global leadership gap and if each of us quietly asked ourselves these important questions and then stepped up – we would make great progress in building real leadership capacity.

    • Thanks, I really believe it is incumbent on authentic leaders to “check” themselves on a regular basis to make certain that they are in fact still leading. It’s easy to forget, it’s not a position that makes us a leader, it’s leading that makes someone a leader.

  3. Truly remarkable & insightful post! It really puts things into perspective & makes you ‘check’ yourself. The term ‘leader’ is often so convoluted these days that it’s hard to know what a ‘true’ leader is anymore, if there ever was such a perfect example – and perfectionism is very hard to come by (as I’m sure you are aware). So many leaders do not practice what they preach & because of this we have come to believe in a misconstrued sense of leadership. Sometimes the best leaders are the ones who do not realize their full potential. These are the individuals who are not overridden with pride & self-righteous anger at moments when their true character is being tested. Perhaps it’s these types of leaders that we are missing today? The ones who we want to stand behind, to push us to be the very best versions of ourselves & make us believe in a better vision, dream & world. We relate best to transparency and relativity & sometimes the best leaders are those who are not afraid to admit their flaws, grievances & overall humanity.

    • I agree with you 100% – it’s the leaders who think the must appear to be perfect who are actually the worst leaders. Everyone makes mistakes, not thing that makes a leader authentic is their ability to lead THEMSELVES out of it.

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