“What makes you follow someone?”

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This was the opening question in a recent workshop delivered by Richard Nugent, Founder of Leadership Consultancy Twenty One Leadership. Everyone in the room gave various reasons and qualities they looked for in a good leader which Richard then boiled down into this statement:

“Leadership is the ability to get people to do more because they want to.”

It was refreshing to hear someone describe Leadership in a way that implied consent. No top down decrees but a way of positively influencing behaviour towards a shared goal. 

He then shared recent research into the key characteristics of successful leadership. The findings on the 4 most influential were as follows:

1. Honesty – an ability to be authentic, for your actions to be a clear demonstration of your values and beliefs.
2. Forward-facing – to generate momentum towards a future vision and associated goals.
3. Inspiring – no need for chest-thumping merely the ability to consistently leave people with more energy than they had before your interactions.
4. Credible and Competent – important to be convincing and possess the right level of knowledge but interestingly this is not the most influential characteristic.

I’m sure many of us have been ‘led’ by someone who is more concerned about being the most knowledgeable, being seen to be right and having authority rather than being considered authentic and inspiring. Some work cultures actually encourage this style.

Leadership still involves making decisions, some of which inevitably will have a negative impact on some but if we keep these 4 characteristics in mind we will be on the right path.

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