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What leaders think vs. what followers think

Leadership defined by leaders:

Forward-thinking, determination, ambition, strategic-clarity, emotional intelligence, drive, creativity, initiative, energy, charisma, inner-awareness, team-building expertise, belief, command, consistency, discipline, empathy, focus, self-assurance, positivity, a thirst for knowledge and a thousand other things.

Leadership defined by followers:

  1. Trust
  2. Compassion
  3. Stability
  4. Hope

It’s easy to see why young people, startups and anyone with aspirations get confused with leadership. If you go to a book shop and walk to the business section you’ll find a thousand-and-one leadership titles all saying different things: GO BIG and Gun-Hoe! vs. tread¬†quietly and be thoughtful.

Yet what all these books/authors have in common is that they recognise their own strengths. The charging bull knows it’s fast and strong whilst the turtle knows it has time.

The acknowledgement of your own strengths allows people to have trust in you; You’re not bullshitting them. And by focusing your strengths in the work you choose, you increase your stability.

However, relationships work both ways. Whilst followers like the fact they can trust you and that you have stability, they also want to know you care; that you show compassion. Together trust, stability and compassion leads to hope.


I learnt this whilst reading Strengths Based Leadership, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. It’s more of a leadership glossary than a book, entwined with an online test to help you find your strengths (mine were forward and strategic thinking. They’ve surveyed over ten thousand leaders across the world, and also thousands of followers too. Worth doing the test, called StrengthsFinder, as it literally helps you find your strengths (note, once you start the test you can’t stop and it takes ten minutes).
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Discussion — One Response

  • philip rostek November 24, 2012 on 9:45 am

    Tom, in the world of peronal expression, since administrators are the artists now and the creators are just worker bees, (evidenced by the You Tube ‘sharing button’) … i seek your opinion. Is there not some sense in simply admitting that everything is just a periphery now – and in adopting this posture… one at least creates a mythology that can create a buffer between what was heretofore regarded as talent and ones ability to remain a high functioning individual at all. If McLuhan was right, and i think he was, the discarnte man that he anticipated is a Stoic. i believe this is far from being passive, and this in itself, is a new technology now – a mental device that out speeds the idea of premeditated goals? I’m talking arty now – not business ventures – but even this may be open to some conjecture, or so it seems to me.

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