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4 Traits Followers Want in Leaders

Is your team giving you the thumbs up?

According to a study done by Gallup surveying 10,000 workers, there are four traits that followers want and expect in their leaders. Followers want more than a boss who simply calls the shots; they need a leader who cares for their people personally and financially, and who provides a vision for the future that they can trust.

"A boss has the title, a leader has the people."

- Simon Sinek

How to Win Over the People: 4 Traits You Need to Have as a Leader

In their bestselling book, Strengths-Based Leadership, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie explore leadership topics and unpack research concerning what followers need from their leaders. These are the top four traits: trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

Ensuring that these emotional needs are met should be at the top of the list of things leaders can do to be proactive instead of reactive.

Being Proactive Versus Reactive

Often times, leaders concern themselves with putting out fires rather than focusing on the organization's internal health. This means dealing with day-to-day operations problems while employee engagement and satisfaction are put on the back-burner.

Being proactive means that a leader must distinguish between what is urgent and what is important. Right now, it's important for leaders to engage their followers.

  • According to Gallup, disengaged employees are costing companies trillions of dollars, as only 20% are actively engaged, and 20% are actively disengaged. The rest are in some hodgepodge in between.

This means leaders must focus on purpose and people. How? The best leaders have these four traits.

  1. They earn TRUST from their followers

  2. They show COMPASSION towards their team

  3. They offer STABILITY to their workers

  4. They provide HOPE for the future

Showing your followers these traits leads to higher productivity and all-around happier people who are loyal to you and your company.

How to Earn TRUST from Your Followers

A reliable leader inspires trust in their followers, and as Brian Brim states in his article on strengths-based leadership when followers trust their leaders they are more engaged at work.

When followers trust their leaders, one in two are engaged. When followers don't find leaders trustworthy, only one in 12 are engaged at work.

Being trustworthy requires leaders to show consistency in their actions. If you say you're going to do something, do it. There's no better way to show integrity than to commit to a task and follow through.

But don't forget to hold others accountable. A big part of your role as leader is to make sure that your team is doing what they committed to doing. If one teammate does not pull their weight, another may be put off. Providing accountability shows you're looking after the whole team.

A leader who is unpredictable causes chaos in the office. If your followers are unsure of how you will react or handle a situation they will be reluctant to ask you for help if they need it. Be consistent with how you lead the team and the way you handle challenges.

Lastly, people don't follow robots. Be authentic, open, and vulnerable. If you make a mistake, be honest. If you don't know how to handle a situation, ask the team for suggestions. If you feel low, uncertain, or overwhelmed show vulnerability.

Followers want to see you're human, and no one expects you to be perfect, even if you're the leader.

How to Show COMPASSION Towards Your Team

Just like you are human, so is your team. One of our human needs is to be cared for by others. If one-third of our lives are spent at work, then leaders need to be providing the care and compassion that followers seek.

Pour into your workers' lives. Spend time with your team to understand their goals and aspirations, their hobbies, and their life stories, and establish close relationships with your team.

Some employers are afraid of getting too close to employees as it may cause complications, but Tom Rath, coauthor of Strengths-Based Leadership argues that,

"If people don't have close friendships on the job and if they don't have a supervisor or leader who really cares about them individually, there's almost no chance that they'll be engaged in their work.
So if leaders avoid building close relationships because they're concerned about a minimal downside risk, they're not considering the huge upside value of it."

Although there is a risk in building a personal relationship with a subordinate, Rath speaks based on the results of surveying thirteen million people in the workplace.

Apart from getting to know your team personally, you also want to encourage professional growth. Cheryl Beth Kuchler suggests having, what she calls, "coaching conversations" monthly.

[Discuss] their goals and their development, [provide] them with recognition as well as constructive feedback and, [hold] them accountable to their commitments.

An effective leader not only checks-in with their team, but they also make sure that they don't feel left out from the direction of the organization.

Lastly, communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep channels open for your team to bring up challenges, and make sure that you are transparent about how the organization is solving those challenges. Good communication also means sharing organizational goals and successes.

You have to show that you care for your team as humans and invest in their potential for personal and professional growth while involving them fully in your organization.

How to Offer STABILITY to Your Workers

As an employer, you have to offer financial and emotional stability at all times--especially when the economy is at risk.

Employees want to know that their job is secure and that they are supported by you as their leader. This means providing a paycheque consistently, creating a professional and friendly work culture, and showing strength in times of hardship.

Financial stability gives employees freedom. Freedom to live well, take care of themselves, and to take care of their families. A financially stable employee is less stressed, and therefore more productive at work.

Employees not only want stability in their paycheque, but they also want stability in their work environment. A professional and friendly work culture is the base of employee satisfaction. If your team is constantly gossiping about one another and back-stabbing each other to make sales or take on preferred clients, they are injecting negativity and competition in your work environment, which leads to lower productivity.

Lastly, challenging times require a different kind of stability. When the economy is on a downturn and employees are scared or uncertain of what is to come, it is up to the leader of the organization to give them support. This creates emotional stability.

You can give your team emotional stability by showing strength and resilience, and by providing innovative solutions that create unique opportunities.

How to Provide HOPE for the Future

As the COVID-19 pandemic challenges leaders and business owners across the globe, it's hard to find room for hope; but that is what your team needs most right now.

If your team is working remotely, check-in on them and ask about how they are adjusting to social isolation. Provide guidance and direction on work projects, and most of all give them faith that this challenge is one that your organization will overcome. This ensures that you're being proactive by reducing cynicism and negativity in your organization.

Provide a clear picture of the future, and allow them the time to think about the best-case scenario (something we often dismiss due to stress). It's easy to get caught in the day-to-day, but as the leader, you need to be able to see ahead and provide a vision for your company.

A BHAG ignites passion in your team and ensures they are optimistic about the future. Create a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) with the team and getting input from them. Next, come up with actionable steps and a plan.


Take this time in social isolation to sharpen your leadership skills. Think about how you show your team that you are trustworthy and compassionate, and about ways that you can offer them stability and hope.

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