What Makes You Follow the Leader?

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In a few weeks I will be facilitating a panel discussion with a group of women who will be receiving the “Women to Watch” award through the ILCPA and AICPA societies.   This award is given annually to women who are deemed to be either experienced or emerging leaders in their profession.  As I prepare for the panel discussion, I spend quite a bit of time probing the award recipients for those leadership qualities that I believe will be inspirational to the audience.  Some of the words I hear are hard-working, takes the complex and makes it simple, respects differences, works with their staff not above them, good listener, supportive, good mentor, relationship builder and visionary.  This annual event always gives me pause to think about what makes a strong leader.  What are those qualities that I look for in a leader that I am personally willing to follow? 

I read an article a few weeks ago in Business Insider 7 signs you’re a leader people want to follow which I felt was excellent.  Here are the 7 signs:

  1. Generally Positive – there is lots of research that shows that happy people with positive attitudes are better leaders because they inspire the same from others. One such example cited was Nelson Mandela.
  1. Not Afraid of Change – Since change is all around us, this trait is critical to success. Being comfortable with change and having the ability to lead others through change is a must have.  There is a science behind change leadership but it is also an art, therefore a strong leader must be willing to embrace change and influence others to do the same. 
  1. Pretty Boring – also known as “emotional maturity which means being emotionally stable, agreeable and conscientious”.   I look at this as the person who can remain calm under pressure and use that calm to lead his/her team through any situation. One of my sons is an implementation manager for a global software company and has been viewed by his managers as “having no sense of urgency” – pretty boring.  But when his clients are asked for feedback on his performance, they ALL say that it is his calm demeanor that they value most and point to as his strength as a leader.
  1. Demonstrates Integrity – Integrity is a key element of being an effective leader.  Studies have found “. . . that CEOs rated as high-integrity by their employees had a multi-year return of 9.4%, while CEOs rated as low-integrity saw a return of only 1.9%. 
  1. Hard Working – Interestingly enough conscientiousness is the only major personality trait that consistently predicts success.  Conscientious people are  “more likely to become managers, and possibly more likely to be good at their jobs once they get there”.  For me, the leader sets the tone for the entire organization.  If a leader is a hard worker, they have a better chance of inciting hard work in their people. 
  1. Displays Vision – Strong leaders need to have the ability to paint a picture of their vision for the future. It is also important for them to execute that vision as well.
  1. Respects Coworkers – This is an important trait for employee engagement. Research show that “workers who feel respected by their leaders are 55% more engaged and 1.1 times more likely to stay with their organizations than those who don’t feel respected.

I thought this was a great list and one that we can ALL learn from.  As we are looking for future leaders in our organizations, we can reflect on this list.  In addition, this is also a great reminder of the qualities we should consider as we head to the polls on November 8th to elect our local, state and national leaders.  Let’s hope that our future leaders are ones we are willing to follow   🙂 !

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Anne Kohler
Anne has been leading consulting and financial management organizations for over 25 years. She has extensive expertise in Strategic Sourcing, change management, contracting & contract management (both the buy side and sell side) organizational design and supply chain management. Anne has a passion for collaborating and educating her clients while helping them to uncover hidden value in their organizations. In addition, Anne has been named by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as a “Top 100 Provider Pro to Know” every year since 2007 and a 2013 Top Female Supply Chain executive.
Anne Kohler

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