There is one critical error most leaders make at some point. I make it frequently. If you’re leading – you probably do also.
We forget that people are trying to follow.
We get so caught up in our own world that we forget people we are trying to lead are trying to follow. We “think” we know where we are going — and we assume they do also — almost at times like they can read our minds.
Have you ever tried to follow someone in a car?
Some are good at that kind of leading and some aren’t. Some take quick turns — even without using a blinker. Some dodge in and out of traffic — forgetting that the person behind can’t react as quickly.
It’s that way with a team or organization also.
Some leaders get so passionate about what they are thinking and doing that they forget others are trying to keep up with them. The leader sets the pace for the organization. – almost every time.
Good leaders frequently evaluate to make sure the current pace doesn’t leave someone behind — unless that’s intentional — which would be the subject of another post.
What can a leader do to keep from losing those who are trying to follow along the way?
Here are 4 suggestions:
Ask questions. Granted, most people are not going to call out the leader. That’s true regardless of how “open” the leaders door might be. So, good leaders ask questions. They are continually evaluating and exploring to discover what they wouldn’t know otherwise. They check in with people often to make sure they understand where they are going, have what they need and are able to continue the pace healthfully.
Be vulnerable. While the leader ultimately sets the pace, good leaders allow others on the team help set the pace for the team. They share leadership across the team. It’s more difficult to argue against the pace when the team helped to set it. It takes humility, but they allow the decision making process of the organization to be spread throughout the team. They are open to correction — giving people permission to speak into their life and are not easily offended when someone challenges them — or even sometimes corrects them.
Be systematic. One way to control pace is to operate under well-planned and executed written goals and objectives. These are agreed upon in advance. Of course, things still change quickly — that’s part of life — and we must be flexible to adapt, but having even a short term written plan gives people a direction that keeps them making progress without chasing the whims of a leader.
Keep looking in the mirror. Ultimately, it’s up to the leader to self-evaluate frequently. Clueless leaders push and pull people with no regards to the impact it is having on organizational health or the people trying to follow. (And we are all clueless at times – we only know what we know.) Good leaders are self-aware. They know their tendencies to push too hard or their struggle with contentment — or they’re lack of clarity in details — whatever it is that makes them difficult to follow at times.
Here’s a hard question every leader should consider:
Are you allowing those attempting to follow you a fair opportunity to follow?