Many people think effective leadership is about being in control, situational mastery, or social skill sets. The truth is, these factors play a small role in commanding the respect of your team and getting them to pull in the same direction.
Neuroscience teaches us that our bodies react to stimuli with changes in brain chemistry. These chemicals influence our moods and our responses to those stimuli.
This goes both ways. We can actually be the stimulus for another person. According to studies by Goleman and Boyatzis on the biochemistry of leadership, a great leader isn’t necessarily the man with the plan; the woman with all the answers.
It’s the person who masters this form of brain “interconnectedness”—the ability to manage the brain chemistry of their subordinates such that they want to rise to the challenge the leader presents.
If this sounds invasive, a more benign way to look at it is that there is actual neurochemistry to “inspiring the troops.” Learning to trigger this inspirational response benefits everyone—not only the organization as a whole, but the employees and subordinates who are inspired to do their best, grateful to work for a “good boss.”
Here are seven ways to make your team want to follow your lead …
1. Give Respect
Inspiring others starts with earning their respect. The quickest way to earn respect is to first give respect. Don’t wait to get respect first—as the team leader, the buck starts with you.
A leader can demonstrate respect for his/her team by:
- Treating all team members fairly.
- Listening to and addressing the concerns of your subordinates.
- Taking the time to explain your decisions.
- Don’t micromanage. Set parameters and trust each team member to do his/her part.
- Showing through words and deeds that you value each team member.
Feeling like their leader respects them inspires feelings of loyalty and reciprocity in subordinates.
2. Lead By Example
If you want a team that works hard and cooperates, show them what that looks like. Remember, the leader of the team is a member of the team. The leader sets the tone. Don’t just tell employees what you expect of them—show them what you expect by living them out.
Your team should never think “We’re doing all the work, and she takes all the credit!” Make it clear what your responsibilities are, and then live up to them. Otherwise, your team will only be inspired to do the bare minimum, if you are lucky.
Kings and generals used to inspire the troops by leading the charge. Take a page from that book, and lead from the front lines.
3. Back Your People Up
The best leaders take responsibility for the team. If there is a problem, never throw your team or an individual member under the bus by blaming them. Superiors don’t respect this posturing; your team will respect it even less. Why should they give their best if they think they will just get blamed for every failing.
The inverse applies as well. If a project goes swimmingly and your superiors praise your efforts as a leader, make sure to give credit to the whole team. This will show the team that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, or unrewarded.
4. Be Firm and Consistent
People don’t respect a leader who is a pushover or too easily swayed. This doesn’t mean you have to shout down feedback or take a “my-way-or-the-highway” stand just to make a point. It does mean, however, that you must put the success of the whole team above the feelings of the individual members. When a decision is made, explain your thinking as best you can, stand by your decisions, and make it clear that you expect the team to comply.
Consistency means that team members understand what is expected of them, and they understand the consequences of both success and failure. The decisions of a consistent won’t be tainted by favouritism or whim.
5. Admit When You’re Wrong
Some leaders think that admitting when they made a mistake will undermine their authority. Actually, the opposite is true. Employees know when the leader has screwed up, and they lose respect for a leader that tries to play off a failure as a success.
Team members know that their leaders are human, and they respect when they admit wrongdoing the way subordinates are expected to. A leader in denial is more likely to have a team that will leave him/her twisting in the wind. If a respected leader owns up to a mistake, his team is more likely to step up to help him fix it.
6. Seek Feedback
Nothing inspires a team like the feeling that their opinions matter. Regularly seek feedback from your subordinates. Accept any criticism with an open mind. Consider it an opportunity to become a better leader.
7. Celebrate Success
Don’t wait for performance reviews or project delivery to celebrate success. Reward subordinates even for minor accomplishments and milestones that usher the project forward.
Remember, different people prefer to have their success celebrated in different ways. Some prefer private congratulations or gifts, others prefer public recognition. Part of emotionally intelligent leadership is giving your team members the kind of praise they respond to as individuals.
The job of a leader is made so much easier when employees want to follow your lead. Have any of these empathetic techniques been missing in your leadership style? Pick one or two of them to intentionally incorporate into your team’s culture, and watch the way your team comes alive with renewed morale, purpose, and will to succeed.
Keen to learn more about how neuro-leadership can help you improve your leadership skills?
Omozua Isiramen is a Certified Life and Executive Neuro-Leadership Coach, who uses emotional mastery and a neuroscience-based approach to empower and prepare clients’ hearts and heads to take the journey from where they are to where they want to be by bravely accessing and optimizing their limitless brain potential.
She works with busy professionals, entrepreneurs, teams and organisations to help them transform stress into performance super fuel and drive greatness from within by becoming brain-friendly leaders with clarity, confidence and courage.
Click here to learn more and to schedule a 30-minute discovery session.