Believe it or not, most people DO want to be lead

Leadership ain’t easy.  That’s not a revelation to anyone who has been in a leadership role for more than 30 minutes.  What might be interesting to hear is that contrary to what we might have seen in our leadership tenure, most people are okay being lead by others.  In fact, they may even crave it.

This became evident on a recent trip to Busch Gardens in Tampa.  While walking through the park, there was a time when my friend Darren was walking a few paces in front of the pack.  I figured he knew where he was going and had assumed the leadership role to blaze the trail to get us there.  At that point, I stopped worrying about exactly where we were going, and just trusted that if I followed Darren, I would get there.

Then someone else in our group asked Darren if knew where he was going.  “Not really, just walking” was the response.

Until that moment, I was totally confident that I was safe and would end up where I was supposed to go.  Now I wasn’t so sure.  (Although walking through a theme park isn’t a super-dangerous undertaking… setting a new course toward a nearby roller coaster was a snappy process.)

My point is this: when I thought Darren knew where he was going (whether HE knew it or not), I was perfectly content to let him lead.  So…

Let’s think about your employees.  Do they WANT to be lead?  I think the answer is yes, but they have to be confident that you have their best interest at heart.  They have to know that they can TRUST you.

If you answered no, they don’t want to be lead, then there could be some trust issues at play. Think about those you follow without question and those you resist.  What’s the difference?  For the people you resist, have they let you down in the past?  Are you not really sure about their motives?  Is there some lingering feeling that they just aren’t being 100% honest?

Here’s the interesting part.  I followed Darren when I THOUGHT he knew where he was going – it was my perception.  Whether your employees perceive you to be trustworthy or not, that’s their perception.  Which also happens to be their reality.

Their reality will drive their willingness to follow you.  To make sure they think you are trustworthy:

  • Speak to people respectfully – Understand how your tone communicates even more than your words at times, and that your emotions influence your tone.  It may sound simple, but a good rule of thumb is to speak to people the way you would like to be spoken to.
  • Do what you say you are going to do – It’s one thing to not do something, it’s even worse to SAY you’ll do it, and then you don’t.  People remember that kind of stuff for a long, long time. (And they don’t like it).
  • Admit when you are wrong or you don’t know something – Nothing communicates “don’t trust me” faster than not being able to own up to a mistake or lack of knowledge.  People don’t expect you to be perfect, they expect you to be human, and humans make mistakes. They just want you to be honest about it.

Thanks for reading!

About the author: Matt Heller has spent the last 24 years blurring the lines between work and play.  His extensive knowledge of amusement parks and roller coasters is impressive to some, slightly scary to others.

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