I got to meet a lot of leaders in at the AICPA Practioner’s Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Las Vegas this week. I’m starting to notice which leaders* inspire me to follow them. I consider myself more of an encourager or a supporter than a leader, so I am looking for people to inspire me. If you want me – or anyone, for that matter – to follow you, maybe one of these observations will be helpful to you.
1. Be positive. I am going to avoid you if I hear you speaking negatively about others on a consistent basis. I hate gossip! If you are saying negative words about others, I will lose trust in you. I will be trying to avoid being associated with you or having you speak negatively about me when I am not around. And don’t trap me by trying to get me to agree with you when you are saying negative things. It’s very awkward.
2. Correct me privately if possible. If I say something that you think is waaaaay off the mark, let me know. But please don’t do it publicly and embarrass me. That is the fastest way to keep me from participating with you the next time. And I already know I have much to learn.
3. Recognize my worthwhile contributions publicly. This will make me like you. If I like you, I will serve you to the best of my ability! There are so many people I see doing this in our profession. Greg Kyte is a super smart guy, and yet he consistently talks about how smart others are. I’m a fan not only of his comedy, but of his humility. (Some of you may not be thinking Greg is humble, but he is. He makes a big deal out of OTHERS.)
4. Admit that you are still learning! Michelle Golden is a fellow of VeraSage, a think tank whose collective IQ is astronomical. She said over and over in Las Vegas that the VeraSage fellows are still learning. Similarly, Ed Kless led a session on project management and admitted early on that his ideas were still percolating. What an encouragement! Let me know that you don’t have it all figured out and I will be more likely to want to follow you and learn from you as you continue in your own growth. Conversely, when you are challenged and become defensive, I am going to take a second look to see if where you are is where I want to be. After all, if you have it all figured out, you should be in some kind of professional promised land, right?
5. Take the arrows. In a recent episode of The Accidental Creative podcast, host Todd Henry encouraged leaders to bear the responsibility of the team’s goof ups. You can’t just want to be the leader and then have us (your team/followers) take all the blame when we fail to understand or execute. Never throw us under the bus! My guy, Jason Blumer, is great at taking the arrows and making us feel safe in our family, our firm, and in THRIVEal. We know he will defend us, even when it makes him look bad.
6. Recognize that I have influence too. Even if I have a small audience, there are people in my world that are listening to my words. And maybe one of them has a larger audience. Just because a person is not an author or a well known speaker or the president of a corporation does not mean you should ignore them. I need you to lead me, but you need me too!
It really all comes down to trust. I want to be able to trust you to protect me, validate my worth, not shoot me down publicly, not talk about me behind my back, and show me that you are willing to admit you still have things to learn, Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. Take your leadership role seriously and don’t be in it only for yourself. I will be a loyal follower that will work hard for you!
*Calling yourself a leader doesn’t mean you are one! So let others give you the title of leader, expert, or guru if you want to be taken seriously.