Have you ever asked yourself why it is some leaders have a great team who want to follow them while other leaders struggle with organizational issues? 

I have asked this question to hundreds of leaders for the past 30 years while coaching and consulting company executives. In most cases, there is an abrupt “Deer in the headlights” effect. 

This reality is something many leaders live with silently. So and so is always having fun with her team and I really can’t figure out how to be like her. Any leader quickly learns that without a supportive team, little change is going to occur. Gone are the days of top-down command and control leadership practices. The statement, “Do it because I’m the boss” has ended. This statement can actually end up pointing you out the door if used too often in the wrong places. 

What has replaced the statement, “Because I told you to,” are leaders who are both insightful and inspirational. This type of leader has three primary qualities that all leaders need and can learn:

  • They are great listeners and observers. They are always attentive and present in the room. Their mind isn’t thinking of what they are going to say next. They stay focused on what is being said to them and interact with the person who is talking. They don’t interrupt what the other person is saying. After the person is done talking, they ask another open-ended question to encourage them to share more. We learn when we listen. We don’t learn while we talk. How many leaders have you met who can’t stand it when they’re not the one talking? Being a great listener provides a welcoming that presents their approachability and frankly, humanity.
  • They never ask someone to do something they don’t do. Great leaders lead by example. The fastest way to communicate to your team what you would like them to do is to do it first, and make it visible. Would you like your team to work hard every day, be on time to meetings, conduct meetings that are interesting and fun? The critical question to ask yourself is, “Do you do those things?” Boring meetings is the best way to lose a team’s interest because it communicates that you don’t put a high priority on facilitating a great session. Telling long stories about your accomplishments is counter-productive to building a strong, cohesive team. As the leader, you have resources and time you have not provided your team, so how can they be expected to accomplish similar things?
  • They manage with an empathetic understanding. They have an inherent insight into what makes each of their team members tick and encourages them in their strengths. After three decades of coaching and consulting senior executives, I have observed that ineffective leaders are often most comfortable with people who are most like them, and they tend to push away people with different points of view. Of course, this is not universally true. However, what is universally true is the best leaders know how to enjoy leading all different types of people and building teams that are integrated in all ways. 

Our research into organizational leadership development began some 30 years ago and has evolved into a software product, “SmartPlan360˚” that benchmarks an organization’s challenges and opportunities. We have found after hundreds of studies that the most successful organizations have the most successful leaders who know how to pull everyone together on their team. The most effective leaders also realize that taking a supportive coaching role with their team will quadruple the results versus telling everyone what to do morning, noon and night.