How to become a leader that people want to follow

by Leon Gettler | |   Personal Success

What makes a great leader? Good leaders know how to get people to follow them to achieve common or shared goals.

What makes a great leader? Good leaders know how to get people to follow them to achieve common or shared goals. The world’s best leaders possess similar traits and behaviours, such as passion, authenticity and a grand vision, to name a few. Of course, possessing these traits or behaviours doesn't guarantee success – but they help make success more attainable.

David Williams at Forbes identifies 10 of the best leaders around today, all sharing those traits: Jeff Bezos at Amazon, Anne Mulcahy at Xerox, Brad Smith at Intuit, Starbucks chief Howard Schultz, Google’s Larry Page, Tim Cook at Apple, Indra Nooyi at Pepsi, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, Sir Richard Branson at Virgin and finally media magnate Rupert Murdoch.

Chief Operating Officer for Wilson Learning Worldwide Tom Roth says the purpose of a leader is to engage others to commit their full energy toward the creation of value and success. “Followers show up every day with energy, be it positive, negative, or somewhere in between,’’ Roth says. “They choose the degree to which they give their energy to their job, customers and co-workers. Key to leadership is engaging followers to choose to commit their full energy". He says it comes down to character and most importantly, integrity.

Roth writes: “Form refers to what a leader DOES - behaviours and actions taken that demonstrate leadership competencies and often are driven by organisational rules and policies. Form comes from the outside in. It is the image or persona the leader creates. While both essence and form are important, they need to be in balance. Often, if there is no integration between essence and form, a credibility gap appears and trust becomes an issue. Integrity is the integration between who one is and what one does - essence and form". They are also resilient and show courage.

“Taking leadership action based on external sources suggests that in order to get people to follow you, you must get them to like and approve of you. But the reality is that people tend to follow leaders who are true to what they believe in and act consistently on their beliefs, even when their actions may not be popular. These are the resilient, courageous leaders".

In an interview with Forbes, emotional intelligence pioneer Daniel Goleman says great leaders need self-awareness and to focus on others. “Leaders need an inner focus to be aware of their own feelings, values and intuitions, and to manage themselves well,” Goleman says. “A focus on others allows a leader to read people well, which is key to managing relationships – the art of leading itself. And an outer focus lets a leader understand the larger forces and systems that she must navigate and to determine the best strategy going forward. How do you distinguish leaders from managers?"

Bill Murphy Jr. at says a great leader connects daily work with great goals while a mere manager focuses only on the short-term. A great leader thinks of people as people. A mere manager sees only titles or organisational charts. A great leader wants to earn respect. A manager just wants to be liked. A great leader empowers people with honesty and transparency while managers tend to parcel out information as if it costs them personally. A great leader understands that if the team falls short, he is responsible. A manager blames the team. And finally, as great leader cares mainly about results. A manager is more concerned with process.

How much of a leader are you? Who are the best leaders around today?