What Do Followers Expect from Leaders?
10 critical leadership traits that influence the followers
In this story, I want to share my leadership experience from the perspectives of followers. I encapsulated a massive amount of research content under ten significant headings. My goal is to simplify the complexity, present with clarity, and make the content digestible to my readers. The focus is on influential and transformational leaders.
1- Vision and strategy
Vision attracts followers towards their leaders. Followers need to have confidence in a specific vision that is achieved by technical leaders' essential traits that reinforce a vision and a strategy of leaders to achieve common goals. Leaders' vision inspires the followers to work for them efficiently and support them wholeheartedly.
Followers characterize leaders' vision as magic because visionary leaders create new norms and meanings using effective strategies.
Leadership in any area requires having an essential vision. Influencing a follower to recognize the magnitude requires a clear vision and effective strategy to sharpen followers' focus and empower them to work in the same direction.
Vision is a precious mental picture of the leader showing the future. Leaders develop future ideas that will be converted into outcomes of their vision. Articulation of vision and strategy to followers is a critical expectation from leaders.
2- Intelligence, capability, and resourcefulness
Leaders must be mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually intelligent.
The cognitive intelligence of leaders allows them to observe and assess reality. It is not necessarily to score high on an IQ test, but the ability to focus and understand the situations neutrally.
Every situation creates a learning opportunity for these leaders. They learn new cases quickly in the right context. They adjust themselves to the positions based on their capability to learn quickly, respond intelligently, and follow up efficiently.
The emotional intelligence of leaders connecting with their followers effectively remains paramount as the leader and the follower deepen their relationship.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are compassionate and behave authentically. They also depict a growth mindset. Leaders with a growth mindset are more resilient in life, more motivated, can deal with situations more effectively, develop better relationships, communicate more clearly, hence achieve better results.
The social intelligence of leaders empowers the leader to reach out to a broad audience and enable collaboration. Socially intelligent leaders act confidently. Some necessary social skills for leaders are listening to others authentically, being emphatic, responding genuinely, sharing thoughts openly, and influencing them to realize their goals.
Influential leaders bring people together to celebrate an occasion, share some past times, and have pleasant conversations on points of interest for the followers.
The spiritual intelligence of leaders makes them authentic, charismatic, mindful, and trustworthy. Mindful leaders can cope with massive stress caused by hectic workplaces, volatile business situations, and ever-changing technologies.
A combination of these intelligence types makes the leaders unflappable and inspirational role models. Mindful leaders also develop strong intuitions due to the clarity they generate in their minds.
These four types of intelligence make leaders capable and resourceful.
3- Action, responsibility, and accountability
Successful leaders display action-orientation.
Vision, strategy, knowledge, and skills without action do not produce desired outcomes. Action requires priority management.
Influential leaders prioritize tasks and act immediately based on priorities. These leaders don't delay necessary actions. They fight against procrastination unless an action item in their list has a low value and importance, poses dependencies, or depicts an extended time to complete it.
Setting priorities, switching priorities, and shuffling between priorities are the primary focus of their day to day work engagements for themselves and their followers. They ask whether something is essential to do now, or can it wait. They take immediate actions to resolve an issue, to create a plan, to help the follower. Using this systematic action-oriented approach, nothing important accumulates; hence, they prevent any time management concerns.
As opposed to taking responsibility, complaining about situations, and blaming others and circumstances for undesirable outcomes may create a hostile atmosphere. Blame removes the power and replaces it with weakness. Blaming, despite the circumstances, creates an unpleasant situation for followers as no one enjoys taking the blame even if they are on the wrong side of the fence.
Influential leaders are aware of the implications of blaming and complaining. They take personal responsibility for their actions, emotions, and the results they produce. These leaders also encourage followers to do so.
Followers become more responsive and transparent to responsible leaders. A culture of trust is built between leaders and followers. Followers model their leaders and act with integrity. Because of these empowering benefits of taking personal responsibility, influential leaders can perform better and produce outstanding transformational goals with these culturally transformed followers.
4- Energy, confidence, and self-awareness
Life depends on energy. Our energy is the fuel for us to survive and thrive. Physical, mental, and emotional energy is essential for leaders to shine. They know how to energize themselves at the right dose and right times. Their palpable energy also inspires followers to gain strength and achieve their goals.
Successful leaders exude positive emotions. Their positive emotions, especially passion, enthusiasm, and confidence, are critical success factors to influence the followers.
Energetic leaders are self-aware and distinguishable in all walks of life. Followers respect their confidence and self-awareness. Their passion can influence followers for positive change. Energetic leaders can create a sense of excitement for even the most mundane things in life by showing the exciting aspects stemming from their witty and bright minds.
Self-confident leaders have a positive image of themselves. They also influence other people to be confident with them. They have self-assurance and self-esteem. These terms are all interrelated reflecting positive characteristics of leaders.
The energy reflected by these leaders helps followers to see themselves in a more positive atmosphere. The followers can also visualize the future described by energetic leaders. They add energy to future events and conditions in the followers' mind.
5- Transparency, openness, and integrity for trust
Leaders are open, transparent, reliable, trusted, and depict integrity
Trust is essential for human interactions. We only deal with people with trust. If we don't trust a person, we stay away and keep our distance. No communication occurs when faith does not exist.
Trust opens the doors, but when there is no trust, nothing happens. Leaders build trust with openness and transparency on purpose using interpersonal skills. Their actions demonstrate confidence, and they cautiously refrain from actions that may break the trust.
Vital enablers of trust are integrity, openness, and transparency. Leaders create trust based on these vital enablers. Trust and integrity are fundamental human traits that apply to all walks of life.
Transparency means not having surprises, secret agendas in the relationships, and having clarity of thoughts for all parties. Leaders must be transparent about their beliefs, views, ideas, vision, goals, and objectives. They openly share their plans with followers in an inclusive way.
Openness also includes respecting other's views and opinions and embrace diversity in a team. They ensure that no one in their teams is discriminated against or distanced based on their age, race, sex, look, and other human traits.
6- Modesty, humility, and vulnerability
Leaders must show modesty, humility, and vulnerability because followers don't like arrogant leaders. They respect modest and humble leaders. Modest leaders take criticism as feedback, and they don't tend to punish who criticize them constructively.
Modest leaders admit their mistakes with humility and open vulnerability without self-degrade. They embrace new ideas and don't resist their views as being superior to their followers. They refrain from dominating the conversations and discussions.
Followers find modest leaders charismatic, and they are attracted to them. Followers of humble leaders feel comfortable around them. They open themselves with no fear or concern. They even find it as a therapeutic activity. This friendly and pleasant atmosphere created by modesty has a tremendous effect on productivity and success, especially attracting diverse views and ideas.
7- Excellence rather than perfection
Excellence refers to having or demonstrating outstanding quality for the leaders for making a noticeable impact on followers of leaders. Excellence comprises the leader's knowledge, skills, experience, expertise, and personality traits.
Followers expect excellence rather than perfection. Smart followers know that perfection is not possible in this imperfect world. The cost of perfection is prohibitive and undesirable.
Excellent leaders understand that perfection can be a deterrent to excellence. Those who aim for perfection, as a side effect, can face procrastination and unnecessary effort to achieve so-called perfection, which is usually not realistic.
Smart leaders invest 90% of their energy for a feasible solution and discard 10% to reach a difficult perfection level, which has a prohibitive cost. Undoubtedly, no solution can get a 100% consensus when judged by many consumers in this economic climate even though the solution may exceed its goals from multiple angles.
8- Tolerance to Uncertainty
Leaders deal with future outcomes. They make the future.
However, the future is unknown to humans. Outcomes are affected by a myriad of causes beyond the control of people. Hence, uncertainty is a reality to deal with future events.
Tolerance to uncertainty is a leadership attribute, enabling innovation.
Dealing with uncertainty is a required skill for risk management. Taking calculated risks is a necessity and fundamental characteristics of successful leaders. Risk and opportunity are like inseparable yin and yang.
Leaders create opportunities by taking risks. They take calculated risks using their logic and intuition and mitigate them to deal with uncertainty in a systematic way. They learn from past failures and use tacit knowledge to mitigate risks.
Dealing with uncertainties creates new options and choices, leading to innovation. Having more options to choose from and linking those options in a creative, intelligent, and integrated way can create new transformational solutions.
Transformational vision, strategy, and goals require tolerance to uncertainty and ambiguity. Successful leaders take risks to create opportunities leading to innovation and transformation outcomes.
9- Inspiration and motivation
Leaders can make followers think in the right direction. They don't tell them what to do, how to do something, and when to do things, but they inspire and motivate them to think productively using various supportive techniques. Active listening and asking probing questions can help followers think clearly and effectively.
It is a critical skill to make other people think and act. It resembles the proverbial 'you can force a horse to a river but cannot make him drink'. Inspiring and motivating require psychological knowledge and skillful refinement through years of working with people at various levels. Making other people think and act in the desired direction requires extensive psychological understanding and emotional intelligence.
Leaders know that sometimes small things in life can generate attractiveness for inspiration and motivation. For example, a genuine smile, a simple handshake, calling people with their names, correctly pronouncing foreign names are few to mention.
10- Communication, influence, and consensus
Leaders must be effective communicators. Effective communication is an inevitable aspect of leading people, dealing with situations, and setting transformational goals.
Effective communication requires unbiased listening, understanding followers' points of view, and conveying the message to the point in the right context. Clarity is one of the critical enablers of effective communication. Using the right words properly, refraining from jargon and ambiguous terms is essential to effective communication.
Leaders articulate the situations; however, they do not just trust the power of their communication. They also find ways to validate the understanding of followers. They follow up on whether the message is understood, and appropriate actions are taken and in place.
Leaders focus on the influence rather than power to cultivate creativity, make an impact on goals and desired outcomes. One of the primary influence areas for leaders is related to the self-efficacy of followers. These leaders know that self-efficacy for their followers make a tremendous impact on the followers' performance, which can affect productivity positively.
Influence requires several leadership characteristics and capabilities. One of the primary aspects is building trust with followers. Trust is believed to open all communication channels. Followers open and show their authentic self to trusted leaders.
Establishing the right trust is not easy, and it takes considerable time. Influential leaders focus on creating trust with followers. Personal and professional integrity is critical. Trust and integrity go hands in hands. Lacking integrity decreases and annihilates trust.
The key focus for leaders is reaching consensus. The consensus is an arrangement bringing all parties to an agreement for discussion of a topic and a problem for resolution. Consensus brings all parties on the same page and creates a win-win situation for all stakeholders.
Thank you for reading my perspective.
Disclaimer: The original version of this story was published on another platform. Link to original version: https://medium.com/illumination/what-exactly-matter-to-followers-8b532a650260
Reference: A Technical Excellence Framework for Innovative Digital Transformation Leadership by Dr Mehmet Yildiz: https://books2read.com/u/bQadQ6
About the author
I'm a writer and published author with four decades of content development experience in business, technology, leadership, and health. I work as a postdoctoral researcher and consultant. My background is at https://digitalmehmet.com.