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Would they elect you?

“If there was a secret ballot, would the people on your team elect you to be their leader?” I used to ask team leaders that question. We would then talk about why they would, or why they wouldn’t. There were of course arguments that business isn’t a democracy and that they had already won the vote that counted…the one when members of the management team promoted them. Fair enough. However… The management team promoted you to manage. That is quite different from leadership. You need to manage and lead to produce exceptional results.

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, in The Leadership Challenge, write that leadership is a relationship. It is a relationship between those that have the courage to lead and those that would willingly follow. To become a leader you must first win over the followers. They must vote for you. Jim and Barry’s research has clearly shown there are four characteristics a leader must have if they are to win the hearts and minds of followers. They are:

  • Honesty. For three decades, hundreds of thousands survey respondents list honesty as the most important characteristic followers look for in a leader they would willingly follow. That means leaders do what they say they will do.

  • Forward Looking. Like so many campaign promises, a leader must give followers hope for a better tomorrow. In the Leadership Challenge, we call it inspiring a shared vision. Where are you taking us?

  • Inspiring. The team must know why it is desirable and important to reach the vision. The moment a team member sees himself/herself in the leader’s vision of a better place is the moment you have won their vote.

  • Competent. Winning the vote doesn’t mean you automatically get to keep the vote. Empty campaign promises don’t have lasting influence. Team members must believe that the leader can actually get them to that future. The leader must have a track record of proven results to keep the vote.

These four characteristics should be the pillars of your campaign to win your team’s vote. Talk about them. Do them. Invite feedback from the team on how you are doing. Know your constituents wants, needs, and dreams then show them how you can help them get there. Now, go get out the vote!

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