What true leaders do before asking their followers to change

There was an issue that ensued about twenty years ago. The leadership of where I was at the time wanted one of the followers to change a fundamental aspect of his life. He fervidly resisted them. Infact, he refused to listen to them. But when it got to my notice, I simply called the young man and said same thing that others said to him and he simply said: “Yes sir, consider it done.” Why was it trouble-free and unproblematic for me to ask him to change? It was because I had a strong (relationship) connection with him. People will resist change when there is no connection between them and those in leadership.

It is an error in leadership to ask followers to change without first bonding with them. In the last twenty years, I have met with many frustrated and aggravated leaders—who complained to me about how difficult it was for them to ask their followers to change. They are just leading their people without having any intimate relationship with them. My simple counsel to them has made a lot of difference in their leadership. Buddy, before asking people within your sphere of influence to change, connect first with them. This leadership principle works ‘any-day’ and ‘any-night.’

By nature, leadership is about creating change. As a leader, you are asking people to change their focus, change their energy, change their skills, and sometimes, even their direction in life for their lives, the sake of the team and the accomplishment of the vision. The question is: How do you get people to trust you for so many changes under your leadership? The foundation of trust needs to be built on good leaderships, and good leaderships start with good relationship.

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Without good relationship and connection, there can never be good leadership, but if you are a task-oriented person, connecting may be something you have to work at to achieve. On the condition that you are a people-person, building relationships may come naturally to you. But making the transition from relationship building to movement requires “leadershift.” That “shift” is the transition from connecting with people to helping them make the changes necessary for the benefit of the team, company, institution, government agency and nation. This is very crucial.

Another question that leaders usually ask is this: When do I push those following my leadership and when should I be patient with them? As a leader, you can push them in the areas of choice—such as attitude, responsibility, and work ethic, but when it comes to their background, experience and skill, you will need to be patient with them. Even before pushing them in the areas of choice, such as attitude, responsibility, and work ethic, you’d need to first of all establish an intimate relationship with them. This is non-negotiable.

Patience is often required when your team members come from a difficult background. Perhaps they haven’t had the same privileges or opportunities that others on the team have had. Lack of experience also requires patience. You cannot have same expectations from people of different backgrounds. Some people on your team would have higher level of exposure while some on your team will have little or no level of exposure. The less-skilled team members are, the more patience you’d need to have with them and the greater the skill-level, the greater the patience.

Also, one of the keys to helping your followers make successful changes is to set expectations for them up front. It increases the odds of positive change later in the relationship. When expectations are not clearly defined up front, trust and speed both go down. A lot of time is wasted due to leaders not clearly defining expectations. Failure to clarify expectations leaves people guessing. When results are delivered, they fall short and are not valued. The question is: Have you set expectations up front for those following your leadership? If you are yet to do it, you’d need to prepare to do it.

The next step—within the context of moving those within your sphere of influence—to change is to them know you value them. The greatest gift a leader gives his or her followers is their belief in them—letting them know that they are valued. It is wonderful when the people value the leader, but it is more wonderful when the leader values the people. Why? For me, as a leader, it shows that I care. And the more that I value you as a person, the more I will pour into you. Value assessment determines investment anyday and anytime. When a leader does not value his or her followers, he or she will definitely manipulate them for his or her advantage instead of investing in them for their advantage.

It is a great slip-up and mistake to follow a leader—who does not value you. He who does not value you will only use and dump you in the days to come. Also, he who does not value you can never lead you as he should. The greatest thing that can happen to you is to find a leader who values you and diligently follow him or her. A leader—who values you will never allow you to remain the same. He or she will always challenge you to change and advance in life. But a leader who does not value you does not care whether you are progressing in life or not. He or she is just using you to move higher in life.

Lastly, the value you place on yourself will determine the level of your commitment to yourself and others. If those who are following your leadership do not believe in themselves, as the leader, you’d need to try to help them find that belief. You need to encourage and not condemn them. It is so sad today that there are too many leaders—who condemn today, but only a few leaders take it upon themselves to consistently encourage those following their leadership. Every leader needs to always speak positive words of affirmation into their followers. This changes their lives a great deal.


See you where great leaders are found.

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