The Three Things Followers Need


Warren Bennis has been around for some time now. He is one of the early leadership authors who had an enormous influence on just about EVERYONE ELSE. If you want to see the incredible number of books he has written, you can see them here.  I still remember how powerful his book - On Becoming a Leader - was for me. He was clear, direct and compelling. So here is a brief list from this outstanding leadership scholar.

Bennis says followers need three things from their leaders. If leaders do not provide these things, the followers will not be effective, fruitful, successful, devoted followers. they will be confused and frustrated . . . and their ability to commit to the organization is weaker. Here they are, with my own explanation:

Followers need to have clear MEANING provided for them.
This meaning includes not only the mission, vision and values . .. but especially - how does the follower contribute and make a difference to the organization. Most people want to make a difference. They want their work to matter. They want their contribution to count. It is the work of leaders to make this CRYSTAL CLEAR. Not only what followers do, but WHY they are doing it.

Followers need to have TRUST in the leader (and the organization).
Trust is one of the most important elements for workplace satisfaction. Trust is built when leaders display: (1) integrity, (2) consistency, (3) fairness, (4) sacrifice for the organization, (5) authenticity and transperanc, and (6) emotional intelligence (Goleman). These days trust a leaders should not assume they have the trust of their followers. Trust must be EARNED and it must be GUARDED. It is easy to lose and very hard to regain.

Followers need a sense of HOPE about RESULTS.
Meaning is important... but results, accomplishment and success - that is what everyone wants. It is discouraging if you are doing something meaningful if it doesn't make a difference, if it doesn't "stick," if it doesn't last . . . and if the hard work you invest, in the end just doesn't matter. Especially in times of difficulty and crisis, and in times of change - followers especially need hope. Leaders have to provide hope. Gordon MacDonald calls it Vital Optimism.Maybe one of the greatest leaders of all time to provide this hope and vital optimism was Winston Churchill during World War 2. 

That's it. A short list.

MEANING.  TRUST.  HOPE ABOUT RESULTS.

So leaders - how are you doing with providing these things for your followers - as a team... and for individuals?

So followers - how are your leadres doing in providing you with these things?

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International
BrianRice@lcileaders.org