Studying leadership for years, I’ve learned that true leaders don’t always require titles, authority, or a specific style or personality to be effective. I believe great leadership is primarily the ability to influence others to be their best and achieve something important. Yet even great leaders can focus too much on the results they want and overlook what the people they lead actually need from them to thrive.
Whatever the goal, the best leaders don’t just ask, “What do I need them to do?” Rather, they also ask, “What do they need from me to do it?” Whatever leadership role you have, here are 12 things the people you lead need from you.
1. Your Authenticity
The people you lead need to know if you are “the real the deal,” and younger generations have a strong radar for what’s fake. This starts with building relationships with people, and demonstrating belief in them, your cause, and your goals.
2. Your Encouragement
People need to hear hope and praise from leaders when they are doing well, excelling, or on the right path. This is especially true when challenges and obstacles threaten to derail morale and progress.
3. The Freedom to Fail
Giving the people you lead the freedom to fail at something is important to developing their critical thinking, problem-solving, and ownership of their effort. The ability to learn from failure is more important than avoiding failure at all costs.The ability to learn from failure is more important than avoiding failure at all costs.
4. The Freedom to Be Honest
Some of the best leaders I’ve ever observed or studied were willing to hear hard things from the people they lead. Honest feedback should be encouraged, even when you disagree as their leader. And feedback helps you grow as a leader.
5. Your Respect
People need to see that you value their work and respect them as people with dignity. There are many ways to demonstrate value and respect, but it’s especially important to do so consistently to everyone, regardless of their abilities or contributions.
6. Your Advocacy
Those you lead need to know that you have their best interest at heart, especially when making decisions that are going to affect them personally and professionally. If they see you’re looking out only for yourself, you will lose.
7. Your Curiosity
Great leaders don’t just give direction or cast vision. They also demonstrate curiosity about the people they lead. Asking great questions is important to knowing them better and modeling how to be a lifelong learner, growing whenever possible.
8. Your Willingness to Listen
Developing listening skills cultivates a gift for those you lead. Active, careful listening is critical to helping people feel heard, respected, valued, and trusted. The leader who asks questions with no interest in the answers will eventually shut down dialogue altogether.
9. Your Trust
Trust is not something anyone is owed. Trust must be earned, sometimes even rebuilt when broken. But when people have earned your trust, they need your actions to reflect that trust. Second-guessing, micro-managing, or doing for them instead of delegating to them shows a demoralizing lack of trust.
10. Your Trustworthiness and Consistency
Just as you want to trust those you lead, you need to build their trust in you, too. The fastest way to frustrate them and lose their trust is to lack integrity and consistency in how you handle people, and how you navigate problems.
11. Your Self-Awareness
All leaders have weaknesses, and those who follow their lead are acutely aware when a leader is absolutely unaware of those weaknesses. Understanding when you need to make adjustments for your shortcomings is also big for building trust in those you lead.
12. Your Service
The greatest leader I’ve ever studied is Jesus of Nazareth. He told his followers that it was more important for him to serve them than to be served. Like him, great leaders understand that putting others’ needs ahead of their own helps people thrive and to work hard from their own desire to advance the cause, not just out of obedience or fear.
Sound off: What have the best leaders you’ve ever served with given you to inspire you and your success?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think makes a good leader?”