I want to be a leader who is easy to follow, so I’ve been paying attention lately to those who seem to model this really well. We should not have an unhealthy desire to please everyone, but we should make it as easy as possible for others to follow us. There are some outstanding leaders I’ve recently bumped into who are doing just that. I’m certain there’s more at play in their lives than the five things on my list, but these traits seem to be consistent and common.
1. They are fun
Honestly, fun people are more fun to be around. Leaders who laugh have better meetings, tend to build camaraderie and vanquish the inevitable relational stresses that come from any organization that involves two or more people. All of us love laughter and it is good medicine.
2. They are predictable
Impulsive, unpredictable leaders may seem edgy and cool at first glance, but they are not easy to follow. I heard the story once of a leader bursting into the office one morning announcing to his team that they were all going to the beach for a day of fun. Of course, that sounds like the hero leader, but the team still had to meet their deadlines and get their work done. The day at the beach actually caused more stress to the team because it happened during a really busy time for them. Leaders who are easy to follow are not prone to whims or fancied by fads. They are not boring (See #1) but they are steady.
3. They are fair
Not everyone can be treated the same, but everyone can be treated fairly. Leaders who are easy to follow have established clear boundaries and are consistent when measuring results and performance. Really good leaders can overlook bias and make unprejudiced decisions based on the merits of their team members. If you do good work for this leader, you will get noticed and rewarded.
4. They are active listeners
Most people have to “weigh in” before they will “buy in”, and most of us feel respected when we’ve been heard. Leaders who are easy to follow know how to ask good questions that get the best answers. They are genuinely interested in you and know how to make eye contact during conversations. They tend to linger with their team in unhurried conversations and seldom make people feel rushed or pushed aside.
5. They are kind
Leaders who are easy to follow manage their emotions and control their words. They are not easily angered and are much quicker with compliments than complaints. They praise in public and correct in private. Leaders who are easy to follow inspire and never embarrass. All of us know the sting of being motivated by shame, guilt or fear, but the leaders who are easy to follow have chosen a better way.