How To Effectively Follow or Lead

Updated: Aug 24, 2018

Females are the future.

Let’s face it: in our past we were complacent toward being dismissed, overlooked, and taken advantage of; but our future expects recognition, celebration, and equality. Therefore, if we want to be a part of the world’s leadership circle, we need to not only know how to recognize a great leader but also how to become one.

First, let’s consider an employee’s or volunteer’s perspective on the matter - what is important to them, what are they looking for in a leader? It’s simple, they want:

  • To know where the company is generally headed & how I/my team fit(s) in;

  • To know clearly know what is expected of me/of my team;

  • To be empowered;

  • To feel heard;

  • To be accountable.

If we are the employee, it is important that we create these environments for ourselves, also.


1. Find Purpose!

If you cannot surmise for yourself, for example, how building a website for a trauma center has anything to do with helping the women in need, then ask. Ask a friend. Ask a fellow employee. Ask your boss. Get a purpose behind what you might be viewing as grunt work and all of a sudden you have a passion for getting your project done correctly & on time.

2. Establish Emotions!

A common issue that arises when we are feeling less than relevant is to become bitter. It can be a slippery slope when we allow ourselves as employees to begrudge our company’s leaders. Before you quit, and before you repeat this pattern for yourself, ask, why do I feel this way? Compare your questions to the list above - are you not feeling heard, are you feeling dismissed, are you feeling like standards are slipping away?

3. Be Solution-Oriented!

Recognize where your duty lies in the issue and consider chain of command. Can you directly change the issue? What have you done to improve this issue? Do you feel free enough to speak with your direct superior about the issue? Many times, a simple conversation can address and solve the entire problem. Remember: method of communication matters, according to Clare Evans & Julia Funt:

“2D Communication” such as asking about a deadline, confirming a meeting, etc. can all be transmitted through email or text. Fact = Flat text.

“3D Communication” such as describing how you’re feeling about a particular employee, or a concern with a team dynamic and function should be done in person. Emotions = Vocal.

Meanwhile, everyone, employee and leader, needs to remember you were hired to be your wonderful, authentic, skilled, solution-oriented self. That means volunteers and employees should feel empowered enough to seek solutions for themselves but leaders should be made available to their followers in order to provide advice, accountability, and accolades.


This brings me to you, leaders. Surely, you are on top of your game, you stay educated on your craft, and you know your vision backwards and forwards. You know where you’re going.

But do your people?

Have you expressed to them on a regular basis why their role is important?

Are you the only one who can make important decisions?

As women, we notoriously believe we can do it all ourselves, right? We can run the sales floor, we can make sure distribution is air tight, we can have a family, and maintain balanced nutrition. Well, yes… we can, but it’s more fun to incorporate other people; and, we can breathe easier when we give a project to one of our most trusted people. Yes. it can be a nail biter the first time, but it gets easier; furthermore, we can go on vacation or focus our energies toward a larger scope knowing our organization functions like a well-oiled machine!

This week I attended the Global Leadership Summit and the speakers brought up great points about new trends in leadership, including:

  • Transparency

  • Communicating Vision

  • Employee Empowerment

Transparency is a tricky thing as a leader because it can be difficult to open up to your people. It can feel as though you might lose power if you lose face. However, it seems there is a correlation between increased power and increased transparency.

To be authentic, empathetic, and humble can mean a great deal to your employees. It translates to them that you trust them with this vulnerability. They will feel honored. It shows them you’re relatable, you’re aware of your shortcomings, you’re aware of your strengths. It tells them: You’re. Aware. Period. It allows them to deduce that if you can be humbly aware of these things, then you must be aware of how the company is performing, what the company’s trajectory looks like, and you evoke a willingness to trust. A willingness to follow.

Naturally, it is not enough to be transparent. You must actually know where you’re going with your company or organization. It is also not enough to have a grand vision, you must also foresee practical steps to achieve this goal and beyond. Next, and this is crucial, you must be able to communicate your vision to your employees or volunteers. Give them the how, what, when, where, and, possibly most importantly - the why.

Why are they cleaning bathrooms in a restaurant;

Why are they creating spreadsheets for an AIDS walk;

Why are they answering the phone when they’re an engineer?

If they don’t know the company’s “why” and how their actions directly apply to the vision, then you are relying on that individual’s integrity to get the job done correctly and on time, rather than your ability to inspire. Not to downplay the integrity of your hires but that can dwindle over time if they’re lacking purpose. Your ability to inspire comes from how well you communicate your vision. How do you do this?:

  1. Know the vision inside and out yourself;

  2. Write down the steps necessary to reach the goal;

  3. When implementing something new (team, strategy, task): Explain how this relates to the purpose of the organization;

  4. Get the word out: Create an infographic, Send an email, Create an internal blog, Send a video update, Chat via video.. Do anything to make sure your employee/volunteer is clear on why you’re doing something new and, of course, the other nuts and bolts also;

  5. Follow up & Survey them: How did this new strategy work? How are you and your new teammates getting along? How would you improve this transition?

  6. Repeat for all next steps of your vision.

I know it feels like this is a bit of a stretch to do for every single step toward realizing your vision. If you follow all of these steps; however, you will be creating empowered employees who feel in on the company’s growth. Doing this will not only turn up productivity, it will also promote retention rates, and happier employees as a whole!

This leads to my last point, and one of the major portions of the summit: as leaders we are charged to empower our employees. We know they could work anywhere given their skill set yet they choose to work for and with us. We owe them a symbiotic debt of gratitude. More than likely they are at the ground zero of the company’s mission statement and to dismiss them could mean a missed opportunity for innovation, it could mean an unhappy employee, and it could mean they take their skills and knowledge elsewhere.

All of which affects your bottom line. All of which could be avoided.

The idea here is to be open to your employees. Make yourself accessible.

Example: When I was a trainer at my former job of 10 years, I offered to come in an hour or two early for one of my shifts every month and offer ongoing industry-related education. The company at the time severely lacked educated staff; however, the employees were eager to learn. They knew what I knew: a better educated staff meant better customer experiences, which would translate to more money for us and the company. The idea was shut down immediately by my superior. I went to her superior with the idea when appropriate and it was approved. When I began to implement it, though, there was “never a good time” to begin. So the idea was squelched and unfortunately the company has been slowly spiraling downward for decades. I wish this wasn’t the case, I wish they were thriving; but it’s easy to see why they are not.

That story is merely meant to serve as a warning sign to you busy leaders. I empathize with you, there is only so much you can do; however, if you don’t or can't make yourselves accessible, you’re leaving money on the table.

Lastly, take this as a lesson to duplicate yourself. If you fear you cannot be easily made available to your staff unless it’s an emergency, perhaps it’s time to consider an assistant or protege. I have seen leadership either fail or succeed at this enough times to know that developing true leadership will not only empower that individual and encourage other employees to step up their performance, but it will also give you time and head space to focus on the important matters. If you're still unconvinced, you would be wise to heed the following:

You can have control or you can have growth, but you cannot have both. - Craig Groeschel

As always, please let me know what you think about this subject and contact me with your topic suggestions!