The subtitle of my upcoming book really captures the reason I’m so excited about its release… Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow. If you and I as leaders cannot create followship, we’re not leading at all. John Maxwell says, “If you look around and no one is following you, you’re just taking a walk.”
In The Heart of Leadership, I outline five critical leadership character traits you and I need to cultivate to be the leader people want to follow. Although all the traits are essential, the demonstrated ability to Expect the Best may be the one that correlates most directly with our ability to enlist followers.
How does this “Expect the Best” character trait show up? It can be seen clearly in at least three arenas:
When contemplating the future. Leadership always begins with a preferred picture of the future. If you and I don’t expect the best, it is virtually impossible to see a future that is better than the past. If we don’t see a preferred future, we shouldn’t be leading – actually, we aren’t leading.
When facing challenges. Challenges are real and so are the problems leaders face on an on-going basis. However, it is our belief in our ability to architect a favorable outcome that makes challenges approachable. People want and need this from their leaders. A calm confidence that says, “We are going to figure this out.”
When working with people. In case you missed it, working with and leading people is one of the ever-present challenges leaders face. This challenge is manageable, in part, because leaders Expect the Best from people. Obviously, this is not always the way it works out. But it is where the best leaders begin. It’s not, "Prove I can trust you," it’s, "I trust you until you prove yourself untrustworthy."
People always watch the leader. They take many of their cues from us and need us to Expect the Best. When we do, our followers are encouraged, energized and more likely to move boldly into an unknown future. If we Expect the Best, our attitude is contagious.
You probably all know, the difference between an optimist and a pessimist can be seen in how they see a glass half full of water. The pessimist says, “It’s half empty.” The optimist says, “It’s half full.” Leaders who expect the best see the glass differently. They say, “It’s completely full – half air and half water.” That’s the kind of leader I want to be, and that’s the kind of leader I want to follow![GLS_Shield]
Do you Expect the Best? If you’re unsure, ask those closest to you.