What Followers Look For In Leaders

Research into Leadership

Much of the research conducted over the last 60 years has focused on what leaders do, who they are (personality & traits) and what makes them special. That research has been based on watching them at work and creating models to define features that distinguish them from managers.

More recently that research has approached the same topic from the perspective of the people who work for them – what do they see and admire most. This Info Guide tries to summarise those perspectives.

Leaders are born – not made

That debate will go on forever! Are leaders that way because of nature, or because of nurture? Does it really matter? For sure some people are more naturally oriented to be leaders, but that doesn’t mean that others can not rise to the occasion when the need/opportunity arises.

What followers want to see

  1. All followers want to see that their leadership team individually and as a team know what they are doing – they have a clear vision for the business, have developed strong strategies and plans to get there, that their structure makes sense and adds value and that they set the tone for the business (values/culture) in their words and their deeds.
  2. All followers want to see that their leadership team has organised business processes efficiently or that they have recruited managers and specialists to do it for them. Followers don’t like having to do menial/unnecessary tasks to compensate for a badly organised business.
  3. All followers want to see that their leadership team treats them well as employees and gives them the space to make a difference. They want to feel valued and recognised for their hard work by their leaders, they want to know that their leaders ensure that they are well trained and have the information and resources that they need to do their jobs or come up with new ideas. They want to feel part of a team and that they are doing worthwhile work.

Above all they really want the opportunity to ‘put on the club scarf’ and when the time comes to look back, they say ‘that was the best place I ever worked!’

What leaders do to enable ‘followership’

 ‘Followership’ is observed when…..

  • Leaders are inspiring and visible – they ‘walk the talk’
  • Leaders are energetic and enthusiastic (cheerleaders)
  • Leaders are personable and approachable
  • Leaders are interested in their followers
  • Leaders trust their followers
  • Leaders are honest and show integrity
  • Leaders are knowledgeable and skilful
  • Leaders make good decisions and implement them fairly
  • Leaders are resilient & stay on course when things get tough
  • Leaders are forgiving and patient whilst their followers learn
  • Leaders coach and train and coach and train and never stop

Benefits of high levels of followership

Here are the four most commonly observed benefits where strong leaders are at work…..

  1. Follower Productivity – the productivity levels of followers is generally reported to be two-three times that of time and attendance workers – output is higher; mistakes and reworks are lower.
  2. Follower engagement – employee engagement is the term used to describe the situation where followers choose to go the extra mile – they are proactive, they fix problems rather than just report them, they show initiative, they volunteer to do things outside of their normal remit and they do it at every opportunity – the waterfall of discretionary effort.
  3. Loyalty/retention – followers so enjoy the environment in which they work that they are loyal to their company and are much less inclined to want to move on, even where more attractive salaries might be on offer. This of course saves the company recruitment and training costs in finding replacements.
  4. Team atmosphere – followers working together create a great buzz and energy, resolve problems quickly, innovate freely and have great fun doing it and this sense of wellbeing and creativity becomes infectious. And for many, work becomes the place they most want to be.

Copyright: © Clive Weston, The Hartwell Consultancy, 2020

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