4 Ways to Become a Leader People Want to Follow

Tim Peters is the Co-Founder of Resolute Creative, a digital marketing group. He loves seeing organizations of all sizes come alive when they identify the best digital solutions to advance their cause. Connect with him on his blog, follow him on Twitter or connect with him via LinkedIn. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

We’ve all had bosses we were proud to follow. People we’d do anything for. Even run through brick walls.

On the other hand, most of us have also had bosses we follow only because, well, they’re the boss. So what separates the leaders we want to follow from the leaders we have to follow?

Ducks Following the Leader - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/danwilton, Image #1921470

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/danwilton

The answer lies in the four Cs of effective leadership. These are all verbs, indicating actions you can take today to become a leader people want to follow:

  1. Care: People follow people who genuinely care about others. It sounds simple, yet this is an area where so many leaders fall short.
    • Take a true interest in the people who work for you.
    • Learn about their hobbies, goals, and dreams.
    • Take time to get to know names of team members’ spouses, kids, and pets.
    • Remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates.

    These things make a difference.

    Here’s a personal example. I once worked at a place where birthdays were recognized with large gatherings. The entire staff would huddle around the birthday person and pray for their upcoming year. Typically, that person’s boss led the prayer.

    As my boss prayed for me on my birthday, he did not say the names of my wife and kids. He did not say them because in two years he never took the time to learn them. I never felt less cared for.

    There’s no better way to lose employees than by being indifferent to the things that matter most to them. Great leadership begins with caring about the people you lead. As Margaret Mead once said: “Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For, indeed, that is all who ever have.”

  2. Celebrate: Appreciation is motivation and inspiration. Don’t leave employees in the dark. Show them you appreciate their achievements. Celebrate their successes. This not only lets the individual know you appreciate their work, it encourages all your employees. When a team member exceeds and reaches a goal, go out of your way to celebrate them both publicly and privately.

    Here are some easy ways to celebrate employees:

    • Send a weekly email to the entire organization recognizing a team member’s success.
    • Take an employee who achieves a goal out to lunch.
    • Thank employees for great work on your company Facebook page.
    • Give an employee a gift card to their favorite cafe.
    • Post blurbs about employee achievements on Twitter.
  3. Correct: Corrective criticism is necessary to be a leader people want to follow. Employees appreciate direction that helps them grow and improve.
    • Don’t just scold employees for doing something wrong.
    • Show them the right way.
    • Put them on the path to success.
    • Take the time to regularly and thoroughly evaluate all your team members.
    • Provide goals and resources for team members to develop their skills.

    Remember, the development and success of your employees is a direct result of your leadership. Make this quote from Orlando Battista your mantra or screensaver: “An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”

  4. Compensate: This one is kind of a no-brainer. Still, many leaders underestimate the importance of compensation to employees. Don’t make that mistake. It’s important. Very important.

    If you have an excellent team member, see they are compensated fairly. Fight for them if you have to. Employees have more respect for and loyalty to leaders who recognize the value of their hard work and dedication.

Effective leaders are not born. They are built. Ultimately, you control what kind of leader you want to be. Take action to become a leader people want to follow. The results you’ll see from your team will be well worth the effort.

Question: What one action can you take today to become a leader people want to follow? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Great thoughts Tim! Some other Cs that help in leadership:

    – Conviction: a leader should understand that loyalty to his calling and to his people is paramount.

    – Compassion: when learning of the condition of the mission and of his people,  a leader has a burden in his heart.

    – Courage: a leader should be able to choose the road less traveled and take calculated risk.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Uma – Those are great additions.  

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Tim!

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: 4 Ways to Become a Leader People Want to Follow

  • http://irenephilips.com/ Irene Philips

    I used to be concerned about maintaining a professional distance from those who report to me, but now I’m more about letting my guard down and really connecting with them. I am able to enjoy trusting relationships where caring & feedback can flow both ways.

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    I think many executives overlook the care aspect.  I once worked 18 months for an executive who, in that entire time, never asked “How was your weekend?” That seems like a small thing, but it was indicative of the fact that he couldn’t care less about anything about me. On the other hand, the executive I worked for after that not only asked about me, but even asked how my husband’s golf game was going, etc. 

    Because I felt he had some level of care about me as an individual, it made the work environment so much better. Great post, Tim.

  • http://donkily.com/ Scott Reyes

    Great points here. What are your thoughts on celebrating the process (working towards the results) vs celebrating the achievements? There has been a lot of buzz recently around the idea the celebrating achievements only will lead people to not be able to push through the process when they face obstacles.

  • http://twitter.com/andrewstark andrewstark

    All good things to do, the main trouble with the world is that people are promoted to “boss” because of the length of service or how clever they are rather than how much they know about leadership.

    Really like this list, and if you want to add a 5th & 6th C, I would suggest coaching and confidence.

    The best managers I’ve had have found opportunities to represent my group in cross functional projects, but the project leaders know that if I were to get out of my depth the manager is ready to step in and fix / point out the mistakes I’ve made.

    These people give you the confidence to feel empowered, and that’s when you actually feel happy about coming into work and allows you to achieve massive results as a team.


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  • Bmwbear129

    This is the best blog I have read in awhile!  I am a manager at a local fast food restaurant and I have been here for 25 years.  I can truly attest that these are the qualities to become.  As the years of passed I have seen less and less of this kind of management and I pray each day I can become more and more like the boss people “want” to work for.   The  more compassion you show, the more open they become, making the work place a much happier place to be!

  • http://twitter.com/HealthNut_Blog Jessica Zirbes

    Well said! This post reminded me how blessed I am to have a stellar manager. I just sent her a really sweet email. Thank you for the reminder.

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

    I think the worst thing you can do is a leader is to act like you don’t care about your team. An organization with an apathetic attitude is destined for failure on many levels.

  • Andrea Mullens

    Before becoming a full time stay at home mom I worked for several different bosses. My favorite one, the one I’m still in touch with, did all of these things. He was an amazing man and a joy to work with.

    Now that I’m at home I see these and think that they apply in the home as well. When I’m leading my kids I need to apply each of these things as a part of being the kind of mom I want to be. Thanks for the reminder and inspiration.

  • Mary King

    Of course all this is true but the real issue is that there are some who are unable to truly care about others for whatever reason, and there is nothing worse than hypocritical “caring”.
    I couldn’t agree more with the rest. . . Great post

  • http://www.elderadofinancial.blogspot.com/ Adam Miller

    Figure out the activities that give them energy and the activities that sap them of their strength. Make sure their job is more life giving than draining.

    Encourage others to realize their true capacity, to count their blessings. Americans have a view that is fogged by scarcity today. Folks don’t realize all of their capacity, their knowledge, experiences, good and bad, their relationships, their attitude.

    If you can teach someone what they truly have and point them to work they truly love, you may just empower your people to be leaders worth following themselves.

    Adam Miller

  • Drjeremybrubaker

    Great reminder of those little things that make a big and lasting impact on our people!
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Minimum

    I love the Covey 7 habits and his theory of the emotional bank account…owning your mistakes and sincerely apologising for them… 

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  • CindyD

    When sending a group email or newsletter, name specifically who the accolades go to…

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  • http://www.robinsonleadership.com/ Leadership development Toronto

    Thank you so much for this article. I found out some things about I had no idea and they are very useful. I know that a leader should have a positive attitude, to communicate a lot with others, to listen them, to come up and implement new ideas plus many more. It’s an interesting subject and we can learn new things over and over again.

  • http://wcwpartners.com/our-blog/ Doug Watsabaugh

    This article shed a simple, realistic light on leadership…I particularly agree with your statement “Effective leaders are not born, they are built.” So true – it takes work!

  • Needs2Cash

    Take the blame.  After all it your system that causes most, if not all, failures to fulfill requirements.

  • Sally Baerman

    Thank my employees at the end of the day ~ each day!

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  • Kuldeep Tanwar

    Care & Correct I am doing already & both are really must for a leader, One more thing there shall be right mix with right percentage of each.
    I think now I need to divert towards celebrate & compensation because in totality all 4 ways are required to be a good leader

  • http://twitter.com/Samuel_A_Medina Sam Medina

    Great post! Care definitely needs to be #1. I’ve known too many leaders, especially in church leadership, who cared little or not at all for their people.