4 Reasons People Will Follow You

Last Updated Oct 27, 2010 1:39 PM EDT

I guess it's obvious that in order to be a leader, you need followers. But much of what I read in terms of popular management advice seems to treat leadership as something akin to filling up a toolbox. If you can create a vision, give killer PowerPoint, radiate more energy than the sun, fill out a SWOT matrix, develop strategy and motivate like Gen. George S. Patton, you, too, can be a leader.

But these attributes don't really get to the heart of the issue, do they? There are plenty of managers in possession of these capabilities, but they aren't leaders. They may have people reporting to them, but no one is following out of a sense of inspiration or commitment.

So how do you get people to follow you with their hearts and minds? A recent newsletter from Harvard Business Review listed these four qualities as essential. The tips come from HBR's 10 Must Reads on Leadership:

  1. Humanness. Nobody wants to work with a perfect leader. Build collaboration and solidarity by revealing your weaknesses.
  2. Intuition. To be most effective, you need to know what's going on without others spelling it out for you. Collect unspoken data from body language and looks given across rooms to help you intuit the underlying messages.
  3. Tough empathy. Care deeply about your employees, but accept nothing less than their very best.
  4. Uniqueness. Demonstrate that you are a singular leader by showing your unique qualities to those around you.
Anything you would add to our list of leadership must-haves?

(Image courtesy lumaxart, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.