Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

The Person People Want to Follow

The Person People Want to Follow

How do we become the person that people want to follow? This past week, I had the opportunity to speak on this critical question at the American Public Power Association’s National Conference in Seattle, Washington.

Prior to the pandemic, people needed organizations more than organizations needed people. COVID-19 flipped that script. Now, organizations need people more than people need organizations.

Prior to the pandemic, things were booming. Projects and numbers were greater than people. COVID-19 flipped that script. Now, people must become more important than projects and people must become more important than numbers.

Here is the deal, projects don’t get done without people, the numbers never get met without people. Simon Sinek says, “Protect people, because in tough times, the numbers will never rush to save you.”  This is so true.

The Next Frontier of Challenges

After the pandemic, we walked through challenges related to supply chain issues, inflation, and labor shortages. Battered and bruised, we put one foot in front of the other and drudged through those circumstances as well.

The next frontier of challenges…employee engagement. According to Gallup.com, 32% of the current workforce is engaged, 18% are actively disengaged. This leaves the other 50% up for grabs.

So, whose responsibility is that? Gallup.com also says that 70% of the variance in a team’s engagement is related to their manager. Marcus Buckingham says it this way, “People leave managers, not companies.” That is you, that is me.

How do we meet the employee engagement challenge? The answer is simple, be the person that people want to follow. Here are four ways we can be that person:

Be An Interceder

Life is a series of intersections. Interceders are someone or something that redirects our journeys. It may have been a mentor, teacher, pastor, friend, coach…you name it. Our lives look different because these people entered our worlds. Redirect the journeys of others, it is what great leaders do. Be an interceder.

Be Authentically You

It is so much easier to be authentic than attempt to be someone you are not. Oscar Wilde said it best, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

Authentic leaders are humble leaders. C.S. Lewis provides the greatest definition of humility by saying, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Humility leads to vulnerability, vulnerability leads to relatability. Be authentically you.

Love and Care for Them

I desire that the people that work in our organization feel loved and cared for. In fact, in our Upward Feedback process, the final question a direct report is asked about their leader is, “Do you feel that they love and care for you as a team member and a person?” The answer to that question speaks volumes on how someone is leading.

Leaders who display love and care for their teams are curious people.  They lead with good questions.  Sometimes the most loving and caring question you can ask someone is, “Are you okay?”  From there, these leaders genuinely listen to what is said and what is not.  Simon Sinek also says, “Hearing is what is said, listening is hearing what isn’t said.” 

On the other hand, love is not always unicorns and rainbows. Discipline is a form of love. I firmly believe that we all start as blocks of raw clay and are constantly being shaped and molded into better versions of ourselves. Sometimes that means tough love to get there.

Love and care for them.

Be the Buffalo

In last week’s post, Sometimes You Are the Cow I shared the story of the cow and the buffalo. Basically, cows and buffalo both detect storms instinctively. What they do in response to those instincts are two totally different things. The cow moves away from the storm, spending more time in it. The buffalo runs towards the storm, spending less time in it.

Moral of the story, if we intend to meet the challenges of employee engagement, we need to be the buffalo. We need to run right into the thunder and lightning, take it head on. Be the buffalo.


I like to define leadership as the ability and willingness to be the person that people want to follow. In this definition, there are two critical words, ABILITY and WILLINGNESS. Everyone has the ABILITY to be the person that people want to follow, the question is do we have the WILLINGNESS? Do we?

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