As I look back at my biggest screw-ups in over 30 years as a leader (and I’ve had a ton of them!) they weren’t because of a complex business problem or a deep technical issue. They were because I didn’t fully grasp that a leader’s positive actions can easily be outweighed by his negative actions. Let’s take lesson #1, Humor – Credibility = Doofus as an example. Humor can be a very positive attribute of any leader and is one that shows the human-ness of the leader. The use of humor becomes a problem when the leader hasn’t previously established credibility with his team. So, while the leader has established that he has a funny side, his team will be reluctant to follow him because he hasn’t proven himself worthy of being followed. It is the inter-relationship of these key leadership attributes and how bad attributes outweigh good which Why Don’t They Follow Me? focuses upon.
Why Don’t They Follow Me? presents must-need leadership attributes in an easy-to-understand format that both new and experienced leaders will quickly grasp and apply. Perhaps you lead a team in your daily job; or own a small business; or lead a small non-profit organization. Quite frankly, it just doesn’t matter when it comes to these principles; if you want and need people to follow your leadership, this book is for you.
Each leadership lesson is presented in a consistent format using icons to help you quickly navigate the content and efficiently refer back to points when you need them.
My hope is that you are able to quickly grasp the 12 leadership principles, determine which of the principles are problem areas for you, and take away just a couple of nuggets to help you put new tools in your leadership toolbox and improve your skills as a leader.
To your leadership journey -
Ed was just appointed team leader in a public works organization of the federal government. In preparing for his first meeting with his new team, Ed thought long and hard about some of his prior managers’ leadership styles. One characteristic he particularly admired in several of his managers was the ability to connect with the team through humor. He decided on a strategy that would help the team accept him as a leader—he would show his human side and use humor to connect with them.
Ed had his first meeting with the team and was very satisfied with the results. The team seemed to really like him. The meeting was filled with laughter and both the team and Ed seemed to really be enjoying themselves. Ed was very happy and believed things were getting off to a great start.
With each passing meeting, though, there seemed to be a growing concern among the team. While Ed seemed to connect with the team, he didn’t see the cooperation on getting things done as he had hoped. There were also a couple of team members who asked for permission to interview for positions outside of the group. Ed was growing concerned over the trend and asked Betty, one of the team members, what she thought was the problem. Betty’s counsel hit Ed right between the eyes: “Ed, you’re a great guy and people really like you, but I just don’t know if you’ve got what it takes to lead this group. The team is concerned which makes me concerned.” While Ed’s focus on using humor to connect with the team was great, he didn’t take the time to establish the necessary credibility with them.
Leaders shouldn't act like late-night talk hosts if they want people to follow them. Learn more about this and other leadership lessons in Why Don't They Follow Me?
Learning the Lesson:
Any one of us can think about an influential figure we’ve had in our lives, whether a parent, boss, or religious leader, who used humor to build camaraderie and inspire people.
Leaders who have a sense of humor motivate those around him to want to participate in the journey. The problem arises, though, when a leader tries to connect with a team of people prior to establishing himself as worthy of being followed. If a leader fails to establish his worthiness by gaining credibility with the team, the team may only stick with the leader when things are going well and there are no problems on the horizon.
The moment that problems start cropping up, team members will be more apt to defect because they won’t have faith in the leader to navigate the storm. Credibility breeds acceptance, humor fosters inspiration.
So why is the failure to establish credibility such a massive issue? Here are the biggies:
Adding it up:
Appropriate use of humor is a great means to inspire a team to perform, so long as the credibility has already been established. Use the following tips to help you get over the credibility hump:
Graduating with honors:
Look, none of us wants to follow a leader with all the personality of cottage cheese. Having a leader who is able to share an occasional joke and laugh with a team is huge in moving a team from acceptance to inspiration. Just ensure that you as a leader take the first step to establish credibility with the team and garner their trust in you before you get too liberal with the funny stuff.
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