Effective leaders do not use their position or title to lead. They lead because they are focused on helping their followers to succeed. Followers seek leaders who influence them. So how do leaders create this influence? Here are five ways leaders get people to follow them. 


Ineffective Leadership

Early in my professional career, I had a boss who had tremendous influence over me and everyone on his staff. He enjoyed confrontation and challenging people. He did not earn his influence, but rather used the power of his title to lead through intimidation. It was hard to give extra energy to my boss because he sucked so much energy from me through his demands.

Effective Leadership

One of the best bosses I ever had, Tom, was when I was in my early teens and was a lifeguard at our local pool. The entire staff (including me) would do anything for Tom. There were several reasons he had such influence over me including these five principles he applied to his leadership.

  1. I knew he cared about me. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt. Sure, Tom was smart and had the experience to run the pool, but because he cared about me he gained immediate credibility to ask me to do just about anything. He knew my family, the activities I was involved in in high school, what I liked to do and didn’t like to do, who my friends were, jobs I liked (or was good at doing) and jobs I didn’t like (or wasn’t good at doing). When I knew he knew all this about me, I knew he cared about me.
  2. He did not make me follow him. Of course, I respected his position, but never did I feel his position was a driver for doing my job. Tom was part of the staff that just so happened to be responsible for the results at the pool, and I wanted to be part of his team.
  3. He helped me come to my own conclusions. He discussed with the staff, and we practiced scenarios that could happen at the pool. We discussed and practiced everything from a chlorine leak (which is very bad), to words to use with an irate patron, to saving a drowning victim, to picking up trash that we notice. He also would discuss these scenarios one-on-one with me when there was opportunity, and he asked me what I would do. Not to catch me making a mistake, but to give me confidence that I knew what do to (and what he expected me to do).
  4. When necessary, he simply made decisions that needed to be made. Leaders can’t always influence to make their own decisions. Sometimes leaders need to make a decision. There were some cases that there was no obvious best decision, but because of limited time, or the decision was bigger than anyone on the staff should have to make, Tom simply decided and announced his decision. Even if it was a bad decision, as the leader making a bad decision and owning it is better than making no decision. Making decisions in these times increased my respect for him.
  5. Tom did not ask me or anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Often times I would show up to work before the pool opened finding Tom pulling weeds, or mowing the grass, or cleaning toilets, or taking trash out, or trimming bushes, or cleaning the check-in counter. There was no limit to the “low life” jobs he would do. So, when he asked me or anyone else to clean the soda pop sticky mess, or the mildew under the diving board, or the diaper left in the baby pool area, I simply did it. And, I know anyone else on the staff would have done it too (because I saw them do it).

Being the boss does not mean bossing people around. It is about being responsible for getting work done. A leader gets the work done whether they do it or ask someone else to do it. The bottom line is how the leader treats their followers that makes followers want to follow them.

Who is the most effective leader you know?
What are five words you would use to describe their effectiveness as a leader?
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