(#157) Effective Leaders: From the Follower’s Perspective

I would like to start with a note of thanks to all of my subscribers and readers.  Today marks the beginning of my fourth year writing this weekly blog. Your comments, “likes” and suggestions have given me the energy and inspiration to write each week. Thanks to you, I have not missed a week in the last three years. Thank you for the motivation!  Now, on to this week’s topic.

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While I consider myself a leader in the classroom and in my field, I realize that some may not classify me as a “leader” because I am not an administrator; I do not have to balance an institutional budget;  nor do I supervise a department of staffers.  In their eyes, I may well be just one of the many “followers.”

OK.

For today, I will write as a follower who appreciates effective leadership.

During my more than 30 years in education, I have had very few great leaders as supervisors.  Most of the people with that title were little more than managers; and many of them did a poor job of managing.  Some did no to little  harm—though they did not do much of anything noteworthy.  Others created chaos and moved the department or organization backward.

Image: renjith krishnan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: renjith krishnan/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many characteristics make up true leaders.  You probably have your list. Allow me to share my short list of what the great leaders do.

  1. Build Relationships.  They connect with each member of the team on a personal level. They see “their people” as a true team—not just as names or positions on an organizational chart. A high functioning team truly cares about each member. Respect is not a word in a mission statement. It lives and breathes in the organization. The leader models this. The leader knows it is always people before paper.
  2. Validate. The great leaders know the importance of recognition and appreciation.  They truly listen and observe what their team members do.  When done well, this is not idle and meaningless compliments here and there.  It represents understanding and interest in what the team members do—and letting them know how they did along the way. Good leaders evaluate and teach. They provide feedback.  They do not point fingers and blame.  This builds confidence and competence. See #1 above.
  3. Trust.  The best supervisors I have had trusted me in all situations—even in those that could have created “political consequences” if my plan had gone south.  They saw and respected me as a professional. This was not blind trust—but a relationship built over time. See items 1 and 2 above.

Video recommendation for the week:


  1. Say “Yes!”  I have written about the importance of a culture of yes—and the devastation of a culture of no. The weak managers live by the clipboard. They confuse being a “yes man” or “yes woman” with a true culture of yes.  They do little more than what is needed to check off their bureaucratic to-do lists.  They make a career of saying “No!” or “Let’s wait and see.” The poor managers do little more than kick issues down the road; they fear making a decision that might “not work.”  The great leaders always look for effective ways to do things. They have a vision and sense of mission.  Moreover, they encourage their team members to stretch and constantly take action.  See items 1, 2, and 3 above—and 5 below.

    Image: digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Image: digitalart/
    FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  2. Take Action. I remember when I did my teaching internship as a college student.  One piece of “advice” I was given was to always have papers in my hand, look toward the floor and walk quickly down the hall.  This would give me the appearance of “being busy”—even when not! OMG!  I am glad I never followed that recipe for nothingness.  The bad managers I have had the misfortune to work under dutifully took notes in meetings; always hurried on their way to nowhere in particular; always had a false sense of urgency that made them too busy to take a phone call or connect with a person. The great leaders? Well, they always have time to stop and talk. They respond to phone calls and emails in a timely and meaningful manner. And they help the team to take action.

The great leaders build relationships by validating and trusting their teams.  They say YES and they take meaningful and purposeful action.   I know I have probably left off an item or two on my quick list.  What characterizes an effective leader in your eyes?

Your homework this week: Reach out and validate a current or past leader in your life who has made a difference. Do it today!

Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B. as needed!

My next webinar: On June 5, I will offer a special encore edition of my personal well-being webinar.  Click here to register now for “Five Steps to Build Habits of Well-being and Balance.”  Or go to my website for registration information. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) along to friends and colleagues. You also can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli).  If you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment. Make it a wonderful week!

 ©2013. Steve Piscitelli

About stevepiscitelli

Facilitator-Author-Teacher
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