6 Ways To Be A Leader Worth Following and Get Work Done Through Others

How To Improve Execution In Your Team, by Getting Work Done Through Others

Showing a leader worth following
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Isn’t leadership really about getting people to do shit without being a Jerk?”

A question I got after writing about the 5 leadership behaviors of great leaders.

And when you think about the question perhaps there is some truth to it. Is it really that simple? And does that mean it is easy to do?

In the workplace, you get things done. And being a leader means you can and must get work done through others.

What matters most is the latter part of the question. How do you avoid being a dick? How can you be an effective leader and be likable and inspirational?

As Vineet Nayar from HBR puts it, there are basically two different ways to lead — the manager’s way and the leader’s. Management and Leadership are two vastly different concepts that both have their place.

“Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success.”

You are responsible for your people. Their work satisfaction, and their performance. How you get the most out of your team depends on your grasp of the differences between management and leadership and how well you can leverage the skills of the great leader.

Getting things done is the key priority of any leader, manager, and employee. Getting a lot done and getting it done in the best way, is the distinguishing factor.

“Considering managers have high influence on their teams — they account for at least 70% of the variance in team engagement.” Danish research institute Gallup

Managers tell people to do what they want them to do. Leaders inspire their people to do their best work. To perform, create, produce.

Being a leader is not contrary to being a manager, it is adding a layer of value on top of your management skills that can drive your organization or team to do amazing things.

Leadership is a mindset that permeates how you act towards your employees.

Leadership is about how you do things and how you get things done.

Getting work done through others

The following six ways to get work done through others, should all prevent you from being a dick. There is no guarantee but you should stand a good chance. It’s completely up to you though.

We are all different and the people we lead are different too. Find the tools that fit you and that will feel natural to you. I have had managers who were bad at giving praise and appreciation, but they were good at celebrating success and communicating a vision.

#1 Clarity on your vision

If you want people to follow you, you have to give them something to follow. If you have a personal charm like a sect leader, that may be all you need. But for us mere mortals, having a strong and compelling vision of what you want to achieve, is a much simpler and often stronger way to show the way.

Communicating your vision is more than having a few strategy slides that you show to every other team meeting, it is about being clear on what is going to be different and how you and your team can make that happen.

“Consistently Communicate Your Vision Through Words and Actions.” Jake Herway, Gallup

Behavior to implement

  • Articulate in a few sentences what you want to achieve with your team. It can be long term or short term depending on the situation. What is important is that you are clear about the change you want to see in the organization, results, or people.
  • Do this often. Use the same words. Be consistent.

#2 Power up your people

Empowerment is one of those management cliché words that you hear everywhere and there is a reason for that. It makes a lot of sense. Empowerment is about sharing the power of decision-making with your team.

Instead of thinking in the more abstract term of empowerment, think in the terms of “power with” instead of “power over.” as described by Mary Parker Follet. You want to increase your people’s power over their own work.

This will in turn motivate them to do their best work and feel a stronger sense of achievement when that work is completed. You want to share the power and with that increase their stake in the success.

Behavior to implement

  • Ask questions instead of suggesting solutions. “How would you solve this?”, “What would a timeline look like for this?”
  • Be clear about the decision power in a project or task and consider what can be delegated and to which extend. Make sure everyone understands the extent they can make decisions and do try to delegate as much as possible.

#3 Creating an eager want

Shifting perspective is a great way to gain influence and get your people to do work — and enjoy it too. Seeing the world through their eyes and understanding what would motivate them or what would arouse their interest is a great way to get work done. You need to practice understanding their world view, their skills, and what will make them grow and speak to that, instead of just presenting the task outright.

“Arouse in the other person an eager want.” Dale Carnegie

When you feel like you came up with the idea yourself or that the task is something you really want to do, motivation is completely different. It is no longer a task imposed on you by an external factor, the manager, but something you want to do from self-motivation.

Getting to the place where you can help your team to own tasks and projects because they really want to do them, is the goal of any motivational strategy.

And it is not about tricking anyone. That is very important. It is about understanding the people around you, what drives them, and what motivates them, and use that to the benefit of everyone. Who wouldn’t want tasks that they actually want to do?

Behavior to implement

  • The next time you have a task you want to delegate, ask yourself: If I were X, why would I be excited about doing this?
  • Consider what you know about this person. What motivates her, what does she want to learn? How can a task be adapted to fit that person?

#4 Show appreciation

It cannot be stressed enough — Everyone loves to be appreciated. We are all suckers for compliments when they are meant.

Have you ever disliked being told that you did a great job on XX?

It is part of human nature to feel good when you are appreciated, to feel you are part of the tribe and that you are achieving something important.

79% Of employees quit due to “Lack of appreciation” Bloomleadership

Appreciation is not just a way to make your employees feel good. It is also an important tool in steering behavior in the direction you want. As Dale Carnegie writes in How to influence people, if you praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement, you will see more of that behavior. “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” Dale Carnegie

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” — Voltaire

Making appreciation part of your daily routine is important. Like so many other things, when you start paying attention to something you will start noticing it more. It will create a positive spiral too. The more we feel appreciated, the more we will also strive to continue getting that positive feedback.

Behavior to implement

  • Start noticing what your people are doing well. Notice the behavior you want more of and that will drive towards the results you want.
  • Be verbal, consistent, and concrete in your appreciation. It’s not about being soft, it is about giving honest positive feedback.

#5 Establish accountability and celebrate success

The flip side to empowerment as we looked at in #2 is accountability. With increased influence over your own work, it follows to have an increase in accountability. That has to be clear to all employees.

With accountability for your own work, praise feels quite different. And much stronger. Knowing you were the responsible party gives a completely different feeling of achievement and you must facilitate that praise and visibility of the achievement.

“[accountability] the fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactoryreason for it, or the degree to which this happens.” Mirriam Webster

Making your people accountable sets the tone of a task or project as well. You let them know the importance of that project and that you have faith in them to complete that task or project to your satisfaction. And with a clear vision, #1, they will know what it will take to meet your expectations.

Behavior to implement

  • Use a RACI model when you are delegating projects. Make it clear and in writing what the responsibility is and who is accountable.
  • Make sure to celebrate successful tasks and projects and clearly celebrate the accountable person.

#6 Listen to what others are saying

It is amazing what you can achieve by actually listening to what is being said. I mean really listening. Listening with focus and asking questions from a place of curiosity and to understand what that other person is saying.

All too often it seems easier to just deliver your message. “Can you please help me with A, B, and C?” or “I need this, that or the other” and not really listen to what the other person is thinking about the task or if they are already swamped with work and will not be able to complete it.

“Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.” Forbes

When you are listening and asking questions you can steer the conversation in the direction you want and elicit involvement and engagement throughout. You can use your understanding to create an eager want or to get wiser yourself and perhaps change that task altogether. When the solutions and plans are coming from your employee, they will feel a different responsibility for successful delivery.

Behavior to implement

  • Practice listening to your employees instead of talking. Remember the (Rather banal) old saying: You have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk.
  • Practice asking questions instead of giving answers. Use Power questions.
  • Remember, you may now have all the answers. That makes it even more important to remember to listen and listen well.

Getting Work Done Through Others

Making reflecting on your leadership practice something you do systematically. Learn from what you do well and from your failures as a leader and decide your maxims and practices.

Growing as a person and as a leader is a continuous process and we can all improve. Consider using an Annual Leadership Reflection form, to structure your learning.

Let’s finish with my favorite quote on leadership

“Employees don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.” Steve Miranda, from Cornell University

The question is: Do you think they quit leaders too? A genuine interest in your employees, their development, and welfare will always be your most important priority as a leader and will be at the core of being a successful leader.