Why Would Anyone Follow You?

People 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 most everyone has in common, and one of those commonalities is that the majority of people hold others to a higher standard than they hold themselves. It’s just far easier to speak your principles than it is to live them. 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 too. We may expect much of ourselves but we too often 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 are led by their core values and one of those core values is almost always to make certain that their actions match their words. They do what they say they will when they say they will do it. That makes them very easy to trust. 

     

Authentic Leaders know that people tend to “follow up”, that is they follow people they respect and trust or they follow someone they believe sets an example of the type of person they would like to become.  

 

People seldom “follow down”, they don’t follow people that they would not want to be like or people that they cannot trust or respect. 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.

     

Here’s a few important questions for you: Why would anyone 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 can’t be honest with yourself you most certainly won’t be honest with anyone else.

     

Excellent, experienced, Authentic Leaders pause from time to time to ask themselves those very questions. They will also ask their mentors and accountability partners. If they don’t like the answers, they take immediate steps to change them.

 

A truly Authentic Leader has no other choice.


Fake Leadership

There certainly seems to be a lot of news lately about fake stuff. There’s fake news, fake websites, and even fake, or at least disingenuous, people.

 

While much of the “fake stuff” is new and can be mostly attributed to the rise of the internet there is one fake thing that has seemingly always been around. That one fake thing is Fake Leadership.

 

Fake Leadership happens when someone gives the appearance of leadership without really leading. They may have a title or position that indicates they are a leader, they may make big decisions, say big things and even have great success in their careers. But they are missing one necessary characteristic of nearly all Authentic Leaders and absolutely all Authentic Servant Leaders.

 

They do not build people and they do not develop more leaders.

 

Fake Leaders may have tremendous business success but that only proves they were great managers. As I have written on numerous occasions there is a singular distinction between managing and leading….you manage stuff, buildings, inventories, budgets, and plans but you lead people. 

 

Leadership is about people and only people. Many people are blessed with both management and leadership skills but many, many more are not. Frequently when people possess only one of those skill sets the one they possess is management. 

 

A manager builds a successful organization mostly on their own efforts. They outwork and out-think most everyone around them. They are successful albeit a bit selfishly so. But here’s the thing, there’s really not all that much wrong with that, I’d rather be a very successful great manager than a not so successful mediocre leader. 

 

What is wrong with it is when that person claims the mantle of leadership. I don’t know if they are trying to fool themselves or the people they try to manage but either way, if they are not building people they are not a true leader.

 

While a manger builds a successful organization a leader builds people who then build the successful organization. In the case of an Authentic Leader they truly care about the people they build; in the case of an Authentic Servant Leader they may very well care more about the success of their people than they care about their own.

 

A strong manager’s organization will have success as long as the manager is present to ensure it. A leader’s organization will outlast their leadership so long as the leaders they built continue to build people who become leaders themselves. The success of an Authentic Leader can go on virtually forever, the success of an Authentic Servant Leader does go on forever.

 

If you want to know if someone is a leader don’t look at the leader, look at the people around them. If those people are not growing, if they aren’t involved in the decision making process, if they aren’t responsible for at least part of the success, then it’s safe to say that the person above them isn’t really leading. 


If a person isn’t leading, regardless of the title or position they hold then they are simply not a leader. If they say they are then you’ll know they are a fake.


The Challenge of Frustration

Recently I had the opportunity to discuss leadership with a group of mid-level managers. At the end of my presentation I was approached by a significant number of the attendees who all had the same question.

 

The questions, while asked differently all had the same theme: what do I do when my “leader” isn’t a real leader at all?

 

The answer to that question is simple and complicated all at once. I’m assuming (I know that’s dangerous) that the people asking the question are truly leaders. That means they care about the people they lead, they understand that their own success is completely dependent upon the success of the people they lead and that they get as much pleasure from their people’s success as they do their own. 

 

If that is the case then the answer to the question is this: Lead Up.

 

Lead your leader the same way you lead your followers. Realize that your leader is a person too, realize that they, like every other human being on the planet, have their faults and limitations. 

 

The most Authentic Leaders lead in every direction, down, across and up. That means that instead of criticizing the person above you, which accomplishes nothing, you should be trying to help them overcome their faults and limitations. You can coach them the same way you coach others, you can demonstrate that you care about them the same way you demonstrate that you care about others. You can invest yourself in their success as if their success was your own…because for an Authentic Leader it is.

 

But…and this is what makes it complicated, before you can do any of that you must earn the right to lead up. 

 

Earning the right to lead up requires that you lead yourself exceptionally well. You must have the trust of the person above you to lead up. You earn that trust by being completely transparent with your leader. You don’t say one thing to them and then something else to your followers. You do what you say you will do 100% of the time. You display the same integrity upwards as you do across and down. (just an aside here, you either have integrity all the time or you don’t have integrity any time)

 

You must lead yourself in such a way that the person above you does not feel as if you require much help from them. You control your own attitude and keep it positive as much as humanly possible. You choose your words well and seldom just spout off the first thing that comes to mind. 

 

And then there’s this…you let them devour your ego food!

 

You allow them to sometimes, often, or even frequently take your success as their own. (I told you this was complicated) You take on assignments that your leader may receive credit for doing, you do more than you are required to do knowing full well that “others” may never know it was you who accomplished so much. 

 

I know from personal experience how truly challenging and frustrating that can be but here’s a question for you: are you leading to lead or are you leading for some type of personal glory?

 

If you’re leading to lead that means you lead because you want to make a difference; your motives are not selfish they are selfless. That’s a huge difference that allows you to feed your own ego even after giving much of your ego food to someone else. 

 

YOU know what you did and if you’re truly leading to lead, if you’re truly leading for the benefit of others and not yourself, then that is enough. More than enough actually. 


Leadership comes from many levels within an organization, it also goes in many directions. If you’re experiencing the frustration that comes with following a leader who doesn’t lead then do what real leaders do, stop complaining and start leading…today.


Are you in Control? Really?

So, you’re the boss! You’re the one in charge! You’re in Control!  The buck always stops with you! Well…not exactly.

     

When you’re at or near the top of your organization you have lots of influence, but you don’t control all that much. You don’t control your peoples’ attitudes. You can help them motivate themselves but if they don’t want to be motivated then their motivation is beyond your control. You can’t control what they think. You might be able to prevent them from saying something but you cannot prevent them from thinking it.

     

Somewhere along the way to achieving your leadership position someone might have told you that leadership, or being “the boss” is about being in charge and being in control. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that you can’t make much of anything happen by yourself. In fact, all you can control with any certainty is your own behavior.

     

But there is some good news. Your position likely means that you have boatloads of influence. So, use your behavior, your personal example, to influence the behavior and performance of others. Your team will do what you do far sooner than they will do what you say.  You are the model for their successful behavior.

     

You might also want to keep in mind that your influence goes both ways. If you have a negative attitude then your team will also. If you are not motivated then your team won’t be motivated either. The best way to get more from your team is to give more of yourself.

     

Authentic Leaders do not expect more from their people than they expect from themselves. Authentic Leaders know that the best way to lead is to “show” rather than “tell”.  Authentic Leaders are intentional in their effort; they “show” on purpose and often on schedule. They “self-check” their attitudes and use goals as a way of keeping themselves motivated.

     

Authentic Leaders know that their success is completely dependent upon the success of their people. Authentic Leaders are diligent in making certain they do nothing to hold their people back. They do not think in terms of controlling their people, they think in terms of influencing them and influencing them in a positive way.


Remember, control is a manager’s tool, influence is the tool of true leaders. Lead Today!

Perfect Leaders

Every leader I’ve ever met and every leader I’ll ever meet in the future all suffer from the identical weakness. They are human.

 

I actually believe “humanness” is the most vital strength a leader can have but there is no doubt being human comes with certain limitations. 

 

Humans aren’t perfect. That means they make mistakes, it means they have faults. It means they have, at least sometimes, less than desirable characteristics. 

 

Yet because they are leaders many people expect them to be perfect. 

 

In the understatement of understatements let me just say that’s not realistic. 

 

Very very few people do what I do in the environment that I do it in. I speak about, train on, and try to model leadership in a corporate environment, day after day. I say things like “this is how a leader should behave and this is how a leader should speak” and then I behave and speak differently. Not often but often enough that people notice. 

 

It’s one of the major reasons why people who do what I do almost always, nearly 100% of the time, do it as an independent consultant. Their message is judged on their words and not their actions. It’s not that people wouldn’t judge their actions, they are just not around long enough for that to happen.

 

Every time I say one thing and do another my message is diluted. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining in the least. That’s exactly how it should be, a leaders, and certainly someone who claims to be able to help build other leaders, words and actions should always match. But again, that human thing comes into play so….

 

Because I’m human I’ve accepted the fact that my words and actions won’t always match. Principles are after all much easier to talk about than they are to live. I’ve also accepted the fact that when my words and actions don’t match I’m not helping other people grow to the extent that I could if I was better at aligning what I say with what I do. I endeavor daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to improve in that area. If you ask those who I interact with everyday however they will tell you I have a long ways to go. So be it.

 

What everyone needs to understand is that there are no perfect leaders. Your leader’s actions will not always align with their words. It doesn’t mean that they don’t believe what they are saying, it doesn’t mean that what they are asking you to do is wrong. It does not mean that they are phony, and it does not mean that they are not an Authentic Leader, it simply means that they are human. As a leader they model leadership behavior but as a human they are a flawed model. 

 

Yes, it is far easier to find the faults of a leader but successful people rarely take the easy way. They most often take the most productive way and one of the most productive things you can do is to discover the strengths of the people around you, including your leader. 

 

Yes, it can be exceptionally challenging when the person above you isn’t exactly the humble type but that’s actually their problem, not yours. So don’t make it yours.

 

Instead of pointing out their gaps work to fill their gaps, if they are truly a leader they are trying to help you be more successful. Lead Up in your organization by trying to help your leaders be more successful too.


Leaders aren’t perfect and Authentic Leaders don’t claim to be so stop expecting perfection and allow your leader to lead. 

Leaders Don’t Complain

I’ll never really understand why some people continually complain about the people and circumstances they allow to be part of their lives. 

 

Some people would rather complain than actually do something about their situation. Doing something may require leaving their comfort zones and that’s well, that’s just too uncomfortable. Other people just want to fool themselves into thinking they have no power of decision, often because they have no idea what to do. 

 

Some people are just too lazy to take control over their lives. 

 

I wouldn’t care about any of that if they would just stop complaining about the things they allow to be part of their lives. If by chance there are things, people or circumstances in your life that you don’t like and you have no control over, well that’s a different story. 

 

If that’s the case then you need to change your attitude about it. Either learn to accept it or make a substantial enough change in your life to gain some control over the situation. Understand that complaining alone never solves anything. Change requires action and refusing to take action is acceptance of the situation. Don’t complain about what you accept. 

 

I know there are some circumstances that people can’t change, some situations there may not be a way out of, and those can cause bitterness which often results in complaining. In those cases complaining may be the only relief or outlet a person has. I get that.

 

What I’ll never understand however is someone in a leadership position, especially a senior leadership position, who has complete control, or nearly complete control over their circumstances and yet they complain about those circumstances while doing nothing to change them.

 

That is not leading. 

 

You’re in that position to lead. You’re in the position to build people, to build people who will help you build an organization. You’re not in a leadership position to condemn, criticize or complain. You’re especially not in that position to complain about a member of your team, someone that you likely hired. To complain about the people you’re responsible to build is sheer nonsense.

 

Here’s the deal. If you have someone who reports to you and they are not performing to your standards there are really only two possibilities. The first is that you hired the wrong person. You either were fooled in the interview (hey, it happens) or you missed something, or you “settled” for someone who didn’t meet the requirements. That’s on you, that’s your responsibility.

 

The second possibility is that you’re simply not providing them with the tools and training that they need to succeed. That’s on you too, that also is your responsibility. 

 

You might not like to admit it but that’s what leading is all about. Being responsible for the success of other people. With that in mind, why in the world would an Authentic Leader complain about a circumstance that they created? 

 

Authentic leaders don’t complain, they adjust their thinking, the adjust the plan, they modify their actions until such time as the circumstances change enough to remove the temptation to complain. 


You can complain or you can lead but you can’t do both. If you’re in a leadership position I’d highly recommend actually leading. 

The Importance of Leadership

If you’re an Authentic Leader then you know that leadership is about people. You understand that things are managed and people are led. 

 

Not all managers are also tasked with leading people but nearly all, or more likely absolutely all, leaders are also tasked with some management responsibility. 

 

And that’s a problem. 

 

It’s a problem because the management “stuff” almost always comes with deadlines. Quarter end, year-end inventory, budget preparation for the upcoming year, planning, bill paying, payroll, you name it, when it comes to managing it HAS to be done and it has to be done on time.

 

But leading seldom has deadlines. You’ll always have people and it is easy to let people wait. You can always recognize somebody later. “Someday” is the perfect time to coach or mentor a rising star in your organization. There’s always tomorrow in the world of leadership but I challenge you to find later, someday or tomorrow on your calendar. 

 

Virtually every leader I’ve ever asked has told me that their people are their greatest asset but follow them around for a week and you would be certain that statement was false. You’d be certain it was false because all the management stuff seems to be a priority while the leadership responsibilities and activities all seem to be optional.

 

The fact is the management stuff is urgent while the leadership behavior is merely important and in the fast-paced, competitive environment where most of us work urgent almost always trumps important.

 

But here’s the thing, the best, most effective leaders don’t let the urgent win. They literally schedule leadership activities in their calendar. They set aside time to interact with their people. They block out time on their calendars to get out from behind their desks and go into the workplace where their people are. They make it a point to provide frequent and meaningful recognition.

 

Authentic Leaders know that you can’t lead people without being involved and interacting with them. They understand that you can’t lead people you don’t care about and you can’t show you care about them until you know them.  


Be an Authentic Leader. Never let the urgent “things” overtake the absolute importance of truly leading the people who are ultimately responsible for your success and the success of your organization.