Creating followership

This weekend, I had breakfast with a successful executive of one of the large Telecommunications firms. He had just completed the turnaround of an underperforming business unit. After years of gradually declining sales, the unit is growing profitably again. “I think I now know how to motivate the team against a goal,” he said. “I’ve set a clear direction, I’ve identified and celebrated early wins, and I’ve recognized those with a positive attitude while ignoring the cynics and reducing their power. As a result, they have all rallied around the objectives, and the unit is doing much better now. But I’m not sure whether they would follow ME, as a leader, regardless of the goal. What does it take for a leader to create real followership?”

As we brainstormed this question, we raised a few new ones. What sources of intrinsic motivation can a leader tap into, that create followership and commitment beyond the “goal of the day”?
We came up with the following possible things that would motivate his team members at a deeper level:

  • developing new skills
  • doing the right thing for the business and the community
  • living by a valuable set of principles
  • stretching to accomplish a very challenging objective
  • being proud of one’s effort and progress (rather than only of one’s accomplishments)

The most effective leaders use the work itself to build people’s self esteem. How can you help your team members see how much their efforts matter?