Leading So People Will Follow (2012) by Erika Andersen
"We want good leaders. We crave good leaders. We're hungry for good, worthy, followable leaders in every part of our lives," writes Erika Andersen, a leadership coach and founder of Proteus International and popular Forbes blogger. "We have a deeply wired-in need for leaders who will guide us well and safely; who care more about the success of the enterprise than about their comfort; who call out our best and take full advantage of who we are. And we long to be that kind of leader as well – to evoke that ‘I'm with you – let's go!' response from those who work with and for us." In short, this book is about how to be a truly "followable" leader, one who can build, sustain and grow strong teams and companies in the ever-changing environment today.
I thanks Pustaka Negeri Sarawak, state library, for making this book available for me to borrow. This book is simple, easy to read, very instructive and although no new core lessons that I learned, I find that Erika's examples and the applications part are very helpful and valuable (there are Try It section in most chapters). I also love how Erika used the examples of not-so-well-known leaders in this book. I can connect with them as oppose to larger-than-life-kind of leaders. Erika is very creative because she links how humans are so fascinated with folktales and "what to look for and accept in those who lead our day-to-day." She writes her own short folktale story, studies hundreds of leader stories and shows to the readers how The Six (6) Leadership Key Attributes can make one be the kind of leader whom others would follow. A followable leader is:
#1 FARSIGHTED. To be a far-sight leader is to "envision a possible future that responds to and resonates with people's aspirations for their individual and collective success." Leaders who are farsighted see possible futures that are good for the team and company; able to articulate the vision in a compelling and inclusive way ("we" instead of "I" and with confidence); model their vision by live it; see past obstacles by being realistic but don't allow those obstacles to overwhelm them; and have the power of persuasion to invite others to participate in the vision. If everyone knows their missions, everyone is committed.
#2 PASSIONATE. Why do we want to follow a passionate leader? Because we want to feel that he or she will stick with us. It inspires loyalty. That's why I think passion is very important for a leader. Leaders who are passionate commit honestly; make a clear case without being dogmatic; invite real dialogue about their passion with openness; act in support of their passion, they walk the talk; and stay committed despite adversity and setbacks. "When difficulties arise, passionate leaders hold to their principles and find a way forward," write Erika.
#3 COURAGEOUS. Erika observes, "People need courageous leaders to know that someone will make the tough calls and take responsibility for them." If not, "people feel as though they need to protect themselves." That's not good. courageous leaders make necessary, tough choices; put themselves at risk for the good of the team and company even when it may threaten their success; do things that are personally difficult, uncomfortable or frightening; take responsibility for their actions (this is a must!); and admit mistakes and apologize when they are in the wrong.
#4 WISE. The quality of wisdom balances the forward motion of farsightedness, passion and courage. Erika mentions, "When leaders are wise, we see that they're considering our welfare and that they'll do their best to make sure that the enterprise succeeds in a way that supports the success of the greatest possible number of us, their followers." Wise leaders are deeply curious, they listen not just to understand but to empathize; they assess situations objectively and as accurate as possible (in Erika's term "fair witness"); they reflect on and learn from their experiences especially their failures; see patterns and share their insights with others; and act based on what they believe is morally right (on morality, Erika points that leaders "are clear about their moral code, and they live by it." Mostly refers to ethics and common sense morality).
#5 GENEROUS. To be a generous leader, Erika points out that it is more than just being generous in the general term but also, especially "with power." This is a much-needed attribute for leaders today. Thank you, Erika, for emphasized on this side of leadership! Leaders who display this attribute assume positive intent in others, think good of others unless can be proven otherwise; they share power and authority by giving more autonomy, influence, responsibility and support; they share what they know – the information, knowledge and resources – needed for the job and for others to succeed; and they are generous in giving credit, praise and reward.
#6 TRUSTWORTHY. Trust is the bottom line. Period. I would like to recommend a book by Stephen M. R. Covey, The Speed of Trust on this subject, why character and competence are very important for leaders to gain trust from others. Erika sees the crucial importance of trust when she writes, "We may follow a leader who lacks farsightedness or wisdom if we sense that he or she is working to develop that attribute, but we hesitate to commit to any leader we can't trust." True. Trustworthy leaders tell the truth as they understand it; do what they say they will do; keep confidences and very vigorous about discretion; speak and act for the greater good with integrity; and are capable to get results because of their skills and experience to do the job, competent.
For the last two chapters, Erika suggests that we should get help from others or to use her chapter title, get "Friends for the Journey." Why? Because leadership is about the survival of the whole, it's about people. Being an effective leader not only requires the support OF others; it requires support FROM others. Wow, thanks, Erika Andersen!
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