Years ago, I was a member of a politically charged executive team with each person pulling in different directions with opposing agendas. We were a mess.
One executive was a prolific visionary with an impressive resume. His Achilles heel was his overconfidence--wait, check that--unfettered arrogance.
It came in the form of bravado, swagger, and positional authority that didn't sustain its influence. After a while, people began to catch on that the outward brash was only skin deep. It was really all about him, so he had few followers and little influence.
What type of leaders and managers do employees enthusiastically follow?
1. They are not afraid to be wrong.
Unforgettable leaders take a stand not because they think they're always right, and use that to push their weight around, but because they aren't afraid of being wrong.
This takes a level of rarefied authenticity. The cocky and conceited leader who proclaims his position, and disregards differing opinions or points of view, is a leader who will have few followers, mostly out of intimidation (as was the case of my former executive colleague).
Typically they know they're right -- and they need you to know it too. This type of behavior does not signify confidence; it's the sign of an intellectual bully.
Unforgettable leaders with loyal followers are secure enough to back down graciously when being proved wrong. To them, it's more important to find out what is right than being right.
They will also often admit when they're wrong, make a mistake, or don't have all the answers. Intellectual bullies? Rarely the case.
2. They listen way more than they speak.
Want to hear an insecure leader at work? Just listen to their bragging--a mask for their insecurity. Confident leaders are unassuming and know what they think; they want to know what you think.
Practically speaking, unforgettable leaders allow their followers the freedom to think and be part of the conversation. They ask curious questions, lots of questions: how something is done, what you (the employee) like about it, what you learned from it, and what you need to be better, more productive, more efficient, etc.
Unforgettable leaders with loyal followers realize they know a lot, and seek to know even more. And they know the way to do that is to listen more.
3. They avoid the spotlight and shine it on others.
Unforgettable leaders with loyal followers don't need the glory or seek validation; they understand what they've achieved. They shine the spotlight on others, and then stand back and celebrate their accomplishments, which helps boost the confidence and trust of others.
4. They are not afraid to ask for help.
Unforgettable leaders are secure enough to admit weaknesses and when they need help. By asking for help, which others may see as a weakness, a truly confident leader knows that when he gets help, he pays that other person a big compliment.
5. They don't put down other people.
This leader stays away from gossip, or the need to speak badly of others to make themselves appear better by comparison. His only concern is to be a better person tomorrow than he was yesterday.
6. They own their mistakes.
This leader breeds honesty and authenticity, will always admit their mistakes, and won't mind occasionally "looking bad."
In fact, their confidence may even allow them to be the source of other people's jokes at their expense, because they know that when you're authentic and unpretentious, others don't laugh at you; they laugh with you.
7. They seek wisdom from others.
There is an old proverb that goes like this: Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Unforgettable leaders with a loyal following seek advice or input from their trusted inner circle that will teach them, keep them on track, and move them in the right direction.
These are the few mentors in their lives who truly matter, and they've earned their trust and respect. This same confidence knows that the people who truly matter the most will stand behind them.
8. They intentionally seek to build trust with others.
Any true leader will first build trust with their employees. In fact, it has been found that in healthy organizations, leaders with a servant-mindset are willing to give trust to their followers first, and they give it as a gift even before it's earned.
9. They make their employees feel like business partners.
Once you've invested in close relationships and built trust over time, these leaders will let their team members feel like they're invested in the business. They give them ownership and engage their workforce in an entrepreneurial way.
When people take ownership of their work--like they're business partners--employee satisfaction soars. They become loyal followers.
10. They reward and recognize those who fight alongside them.
An unforgettable leader never flies solo or plays for the name on the back of his jersey. He will always acknowledge successes as a team effort.
This leader understands human nature and will make it a priority to recognize people for their hard work, both in public and private.
Employees will typically be more willing to follow a leader who is not seeking self-glory, but building up others instead.