Leading others is an art. It must be because we are human beings; each of us unique versus machines that can be programmed to perform the same task over and over. People learn and can adapt. People are not resources to be managed, instead, they are individuals desiring to be led. But not just by anyone. To qualify to lead another, we must first know their condition.

Travel with your people

Just as life is a journey, so is leading others. We are sure to attain important milestones along the way as teams go through seasons. When the team achieves something remarkable, we celebrate with them.

Should failure come, and it will at some juncture, we will be there to help them understand most circumstances are not permeant. Realizing failure is not fatal can give teams the courage to take their next bold step.

Be ready to act

As a leader, you know where each of your people is in time and space. It isn’t because you desire to control them or cause them to do something your way, it is because you care about them. An important distinction.

You want to help them exceed what you can do because they each have something special about them. Instead of wanting to make sure they do things right, you are there to help encourage them to do something extraordinary with their gifts. You are also there to help if they get too stuck. Struggling is good, yet we all need and deserve help sometimes. The best leaders know when to intervene and when to let the teams’ choices play out.

When a leader gives in to the temptation to control others, they are neutralizing trust. Keep it up too long and they risk losing their people altogether because they will hide from them. Review the pillars of how to build trust in a new book by David Horsager called The Trust Edge.

Continue to remain close

We do have a responsibility to stay close. How we do it matters.

In both good and hard times, the best leaders don’t leave their people alone. Instead, they practice the right ways to engage and connect with them. They respect each follower as a uniquely formed individual; taking time to learn the nuances of each one. Leading well requires caring enough to do it.

By becoming one who practices building resilient teams, we can create healthier environments for people to do their best work. A healthy environment is a safe place.

Become the safe place

Safety doesn’t come in a day or through a program delivered by outsiders. Instead, safety is the result of the work you have already done. You’ve put in the time, the practice, and have done it mostly one conversation at a time. Engaging and connecting with your people regularly matters. So does leading by example. In effect, we become a safe place and teach others how to become one too.

How followers feel about those that lead them well

Dear Leader,

We know you understand how we are feeling because we have told you.

There is an openness between us. This happened over time. You don’t know our whole story, but you know enough to provide help where we need it.

You have spent enough time with us to recognize when we are doing well and when our countenance drops. You are wise enough to know how to encourage us and the best ways to hold us accountable. You make us better.

We have discussed and shared our professional aspirations. You have placed us in the best spot to showcase our unique talents. You have allowed us the opportunity to give to the organization and its people our best selves.

As a result, we work harder for you than anyone else. Your investment over time produced loyalty giving us extra energy when needed most.

We also hope the best for you and want you to succeed in your career and life. We desire your talent to be multiplied through us and your influence to increase more so others might enjoy what you have provided.

As your follower, we are beginning to recognize day by day we are being prepared to take on greater responsibilities. Through your guidance, we are maximizing our talent.

You know where we are. We recognize your voice. When you call, we know it is important and respond readily to contribute.

We have experienced failure together. You told us it would be okay and it was. We thank you for believing in us and letting us try it our way. More than any gift you may have given, it is your trust we value most.

Most of us have our own teams now too. We provide them guidance as you taught us, and we have engaged and connected with them in a manner we think you would be proud to see.

While our gifts continue to be refined, we can see your influence on how our team treats others because of your example living through us. We encourage harmony among those who see things differently and find new ways to build bridges.

We each have developed our own unique voices. Not surprisingly should we ever sing together, we would harmonize naturally. One voice with different parts.

We encourage experimentation and exploration of new ways to solve old problems and we are prepared to face new ones. Just like you didn’t tell us the exact way to go, you provided each of us with a compass. We are making places where we walk better the best we can.

We remember the hard questions you asked. Especially challenging us to be generous. Most of us had to learn some hard lessons on our own. We now have our own stories to share with those we travel with. Stories of success and failure.

As we walk our path and do our best work, whether we see them or not, our leader knows where we are, and should we get lost, they know exactly where to begin the search.

Last thoughts

Action follows identity as behaviors reflect character. Over time, followers tend to reflect the character traits of those they follow. This is why it is important to follow only the best leaders.

Effective leaders recognize the condition of their people. Able to empathize because they have taken time to understand their perspective, they are in the best position to help. They’ve earned permission to lead.

Eric Peterson currently serves as technical program manager for a Fortune 500 Financial Services Company in Denver, Colorado. In addition to his job, he volunteered to form a team that employed servant leadership principles to architect a sustainable model supporting 730 employees. The community encourages staff driven initiatives in areas that include innovation, fellowship, and personal development. He earned a BS in Finance from the University of Nebraska and a MA from Webster University in Information Technology and Resource Management. He is a values-centered leader that equips people to lead more effectively through employing servant leadership principles. He also writes a weekly blog on leadership and team building found at www.shepherdingheart.com.

Image courtesy of Rebrand Cities.