Moving into new media, the Harvard Business Review now produces ‘video insights’ (available direct on www.hbr.org or as podcasts) which, amongst other things, includes “Management Tips.” On the 18th November I viewed “What do people want from their leaders?” by Gareth Jones of the London Business School. His principle concern was that there is very little trust in the capitalist system right now (think of the publics’ opinion of bankers) and this might further extend to business leaders. In order to promote trust in leadership, we should no longer ask the question ‘what makes a good leader;’ rather start with the question ‘what do the followers want from a leader…?’
Here’s what people want from their leaders followed by further considerations (“et alors”)
What do people want from their leaders?
In the context of the definition that ‘effective’ leadership excites people to exceptional performance; and having conducted 1000 interviews, Jones concludes that there are four key things that followers are looking for in their leaders:
Followers want to feel part of something, be it a team, a department, a business or a project.
Followers want to be led by someone who is authentic – a real person they can trust.
Followers want leaders who appreciate their contribution – feedback is sought.
Followers want a leader who can transform (make changes) and enrich (add value).
It could not be simpler! Make everyone feel part of a team and lead with vision to engage everyone behind a single goal or objective. Work on your self-awareness and be authentic (not whom you think you should be, but who you really are). Give feedback well (both constructive and positive) and then energize people with your enthusiasm (and ability) to make changes and increase value. Its simplicity belies the fact that it appears to be very culturally specific. This might apply to Anglo-Saxon followers (but I’m not sure as the sample profiles were not given); however it might not apply to other cultures.
Some cultures already have a very strong sense of community in everything and anything they do without leaders having to highlight it for them; followers may prefer their leaders to focus on other aspects. Some cultures don’t necessarily want their leaders to be ‘authentic’ personas – instead they might prefer someone who maintains a formal distance that (as such in that culture) strengthens the leader’s power. Some cultures might prefer their leaders to maintain the status-quo and (whilst not destroy value, at least) maintain value. Apparently, in most cultures, people are always searching for feedback; however the way in which it is done is very important and culturally specific. In short, as a leader, focus on your followers and ask them what they want, but don’t expect the response to be uniformly consistent across cultures!