Leaders need to be loved

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Jane Phillips demystifies leadership theory while.

There's a lot of baloney talked about leadership. We've had former chief inspector Chris Woodhead and the National College for School Leadership at odds about the language used and whether leadership lingo enlightens or obscures.

Of course, it does both. But the NCSL has put the cart before the horse in proliferating language that most people don't understand. And Chris Woodhead would be the first to admit that, in the leadership stakes, he is possibly lacking the cart, the horse or both.

We've heard so much uninformed comment and so many competing theories that our brains are reeling. We have information overload about this elusive quality. It would be easy to become so enmeshed in this plethora of information that the whole point is lost. So let's cut to the chase. Here it is in a nutshell.

Leadership is a type of relationship. A relationship between leaders and their followers. It is a logical impossibility to have a leader without followers, so the crux of leadership is the ability to attract and retain followers. That's it. Everything else is secondary. You need to capture people's hearts and minds, or, in leadership lingo, "leadership is dependent on an emotional and rational pact between leaders and their followers". The really interesting part is that the power in this relationship lies with the followers. Astute politicians know this well. At approximately five-year intervals, their relationship is tested to destruction, so they work hard to foster it.

Asking "How do we do this?" used to be a question for the few. Now we all have to ask it because, these days, we're all expected to be leaders.

Administration is not enough, management is not enough, teaching is not enough, governance is not enough. Whatever your job, wherever you work, you will be expected to lead. But how?

I've been doing some research into likeability and have found that there is a striking resemblance between the people we like and those we want to follow. What type of person would you really want to follow? Most of us want leaders we can trust, people we know will respect confidences, who will be open, straight and honest with us, people we can rely on to fulfil their commitments to us.

We want them to trust us, and share their vulnerabilities with us. We want our leaders to listen to us, to show that they like us and to show care and consideration towards us.

We want to know that they value us as unique human beings. And we'd like them to be positive, optimistic people who spread happiness wherever they go.

These are the types of people that most of us would want to follow and these are the characteristics of likeable people. There is a huge overlap.

So, leaders take note: we are more inclined to follow people we find likeable. We are more willing to allow them to lead us. Now the big question - how do you rate as a leader? Can you say a categorical "Yes" to all of these?

* Are you completely trustworthy?

* Are you open, straight and honest with your followers?

* Do you fulfil all your commitments to them?

* Do you respect their confidences?

* Do you share your vulnerabilities with them?

* Do you really listen to them?

* Do you always show care and consideration towards them?

* Are you positive and optimistic - and do you spread happiness wherever you go?

* Do you show that you value them both as a group and as individuals?

* Do all your communications, both written and verbal, reflect the above characteristics?

* Would they describe you as a good leader?

The leadership relationship is more emotional than rational. It is shot through with emotion and the great leaders in all spheres are those who are loved (yes, I did say loved) by their followers.

The greatest military leadersfit into this category, as do a small number of the world's political leaders.

If this is a linear progression, excellent leaders will be loved, good leaders liked and mediocre ones tolerated.

Jane Phillips is an occupational psychologist and chair of the National Association of Governors and Managers. She writes here in a personal capacity

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