As a leader, it would be nice to know that your team members are following you and supporting the direction you are taking. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Quite often members of your team are following their own path and some of them are actively subverting your decisions. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “It is a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead — and find no one there.” So how can we build a team that will want to follow us, and in some cases even outgrow us and become leaders themselves.unnamed

You don’t attract what you want, but what you are.” Dr. Wayne Dyer – We have heard that opposites attract, and in romantic or social relationships that can be true. We have often seen couples where one of the partners is outgoing and the other is more reserved, or best friends, where one is intellectual and the other is more emotional. These relationships often work as we look for complementary strengths in those that are close to us. But in this we are talking about personality traits, not core values. When we look at values such as dependability, honesty, optimism, strength, etc., we look to associate ourselves with people who share our own standards. As a leader develops his or her team, they might try to bring in people with a better value set than their own. This is destined to fail, if not right away, then eventually. There are two key reasons for this:

You are the example. – Your team is watching you, all the time. What you do and allow determines the behavioral parameters for the team. If you make it a habit to inflate your expense report, the team will learn of it and emulate or judge accordingly. Those that share your proclivity to steal will do so themselves, some even more so, with the understanding that your behavior justifies theirs. Those who are honest will find your actions repugnant and use your behavior as an excuse to not follow you in other areas, or to look for a leader that is more reflective of their values. On the other hand, if you show impeccable trustworthiness in dealing with a client issue, your behavior will again have ramifications. Those who desire honest dealings will trust you more with increased loyalty. Those that don’t value trust will wonder why you missed an opportunity to increase profitability and will look for a leader who is more representative of their values. In either scenario, the team will self-select around the leader’s core values.

Strong team members won’t follow weak leaders. – As your team members watch you, they make decisions on your leadership ability. If you are fortunate enough to have some future leaders in your group, they will be ascertaining your relative strengths and weaknesses. If they determine that you are weaker than they are, you will no longer be able to effectively lead them. Either they will work toward your ouster or look for another leader that is worthy of them. Along the same line, weak team members can’t stand strong leaders.

To improve your team, improve yourself. – Because of this law of attraction, the only way that you can improve your team, is to find ways to improve yourself. Here are some suggestions:

Learn about your leadership approach. – We all have an innate style of leadership. This is based on our personality, our upbringing, our education and our experience. Here is an 18 question quiz that can give you an initial (and free) look into your approach. Be honest in your answers and don’t over think each question to get the truest results. Leadership Assessment

Develop a reading habit. – I am often surprised at how little many professionals read beyond online articles and professional journals. Those things are important, but in order to improve yourself in significant ways, you need to be a habitual reader of quality leadership, people skills and management books. And as you read them, make notes and highlight key ideas that you can use in your work and personal life.

Join a group of like-minded leaders. – Napoleon Hill talked about the importance of mastermind groups, peer associations where individuals can meet to discuss issues and challenge and learn from one another. If you can’t find a group, put one together yourself. It will give you a chance to develop important business relationships and colleagues outside of the work place.

Coaching can be essential to your success. – There is a good reason that so many professionals have hired a coach. It is because they don’t know what they don’t know. An effective coach can help you to build new strengths and abilities by challenging your current plans and processes. Many organizations will support the coaching process – look into it!

A conflict between the values of the leader and his or her team must be dealt with. If you fail to achieve this alignment, your team is destined to fail.

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