How Do You Score in the Human Aspect of Leadership?

by Percival J. Meris on November 8, 2009


Image by Ivan Petrov

LEADERSHIP IS BASICALLY HUMAN IN ORIENTATION. To deal effectively with your followers, you as leader must possess both human- and nonhuman-oriented attributes.

You must possess physical vitality and stamina, as well as intelligence and judgment-in-action. More importantly, you must possess social skills in dealing with your followers and in understanding them and their needs.

This article will focus on the social skills that you as leader must have.

Your Followers Are Your Greatest Assets

You are leader, because you have followers. Therefore, followers are your most important assets. They directly perform activities to achieve the goals of your team. For this reason, they are the front liners, who have more direct experience and knowledge about their particular work situations.

Given this advantage, in addition to the work they perform, your followers can be your source of ideas and information. By being in constant communication with them, you can ask again and again for information that will guide you in deciding what need to be done.

Cultivate the Affective Aspect of Your Leader-Follower Relationship

Your followers are, in the first place, creatures of feelings. Therefore, you should address this part of their nature before mobilizing them for team efforts. Here are some guidelines to achieve this purpose.

Be Able To Understand Your Followers’ Viewpoints

To preserve harmony in your relationship, learn to step into their shoes, especially when disagreements and conflicts arise, and see the situation from their point of view.

Avoid blaming and being self-defensive. Rather, let them know how their thoughts and feelings affect yours. Use words that will justify your feelings without mounting an offensive of your own.

Listen Twice As Much As You Talk

To motivate, inspire, guide, and interact with your followers, ask questions and listen. This is the most powerful advice towards this end.

In a one-on-one interview, ask them to discuss what they know, what they feel uncertain about, how they think progress can be made, etc.

In a disciplinary session, minimize your talkativeness, lest you risk being perceived as not understanding the situation, not appreciating your follower’s point of view, and making arbitrary judgments.

Boost Their Self-Esteem

Your followers have a need for self-respect and for esteem by others. Satisfying this need makes them feel self-confident, worthy, strong, capable, adequate, and useful and necessary in the team.

Therefore, treat each of them with dignity and respect. Show each how his work contributes to worthwhile ends, and recognize him for his work. Ask him for his ideas and opinions. Promote self-management, so that each would need only minimal supervision.

Enhance Your Followers’ Work Competency

Having addressed relationship issues, it is now time to hone your followers’ ability to perform well. How do you do this?

Be a Mentor

Your greatest aim should be to cultivate a group of talented, self-confident, and cooperative followers. For, they are the ones who will have a direct hand in achieving the organization’s goals. To realize this, assume the role of coach to your team.

Enhance their effectiveness by developing their talents, and energizing them as a group. Give them standards to live up to, while reinforcing your confidence in their abilities. Motivate them by issuing genuine compliments in public.

Set the Example

You cannot expect your followers to follow your lead if you don’t take the first step yourself. Set the example. Do what you say you will do.

Be personally involved in their work. Be beside them in flesh and blood. Leadership cannot be exercised from a distance. It is a relationship, and relationships are formed only when people come into contact with each other.

Train Them to Make Decisions

Not all of your followers will have the same degree of confidence when it comes to directing their own job efforts. Gradually delegate projects of increasing responsibility, according to their degree of confidence. Show them how to use a process of elimination to come up with the best way to proceed in what they are working on.

Do not leave them scratching their heads, as they try to figure out what to do next, though. Do not handhold either, as this will impede learning to act independently. Instead, steer them in the right direction without doing the work yourself.

Balance Organizational Goals and Your Followers’ Interests

As leader, you set the direction of your team’s course, to which members may not be used, if it is a new one. You have to strike a balance between your vision for the organization’s future and your followers’ current interests.

As you push them to the next level, calibrate their direction in line with the speed at which they can move. Float a trial balloon first with select individuals and groups whose general support you already have.


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