Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? (2022)

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Editor’s Note, January 21, 2021: We were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Gareth Jones. Gareth’s work with coauthor Rob Goffee, including this McKinsey Award-winning HBR article from 2000, led to a bestselling book of the same title. These ideas profoundly shaped leadership thought and practice, bringing needed focus to the importance of authenticity in leadership.

If you want to silence a room of executives, try this small trick. Ask them, “Why would anyone want to be led by you?” We’ve asked just that question for the past ten years while consulting for dozens of companies in Europe and the United States. Without fail, the response is a sudden, stunned hush. All you can hear are knees knocking.

Executives have good reason to be scared. You can’t do anything in business without followers, and followers in these “empowered” times are hard to find. So executives had better know what it takes to lead effectively—they must find ways to engage people and rouse their commitment to company goals. But most don’t know how, and who can blame them? There’s simply too much advice out there. Last year alone, more than 2,000 books on leadership were published, some of them even repackaging Moses and Shakespeare as leadership gurus.

We’ve yet to hear advice that tells the whole truth about leadership. Yes, everyone agrees that leaders need vision, energy, authority, and strategic direction. That goes without saying. But we’ve discovered that inspirational leaders also share four unexpected qualities:

  • By exposing some vulnerability, they reveal their approachability and humanity.
  • Their ability to collect and interpret soft data helps them know just when and how to act.
  • Inspirational leaders empathize passionately—and realistically—with people, and they care intensely about the work employees do.
  • They capitalize on what’s unique about themselves.

You may find yourself in a top position without these qualities, but few people will want to be led by you.

Our theory about the four essential qualities of leadership, it should be noted, is not about results per se. While many of the leaders we have studied and use as examples do in fact post superior financial returns, the focus of our research has been on leaders who excel at inspiring people—in capturing hearts, minds, and souls. This ability is not everything in business, but any experienced leader will tell you it is worth quite a lot. Indeed, great results may be impossible without it.

Our research into leadership began some 25 years ago and has followed three streams since then. First, as academics, we ransacked the prominent leadership theories of the past century to develop our own working model of effective leadership. (For more on the history of leadership thinking, see the sidebar “Leadership: A Small History of a Big Topic.”) Second, as consultants, we have tested our theory with thousands of executives in workshops worldwide and through observations with dozens of clients. And third, as executives ourselves, we have vetted our theories in our own organizations.

Leadership: A Small History of a Big Topic

People have been talking about leadership since the time of Plato. But in organizations all over the world—in dinosaur conglomerates and new-economy startups alike—the same complaint emerges: we don’t have enough leadership. We have to ask ourselves, Why are we so obsessed with leadership?

One answer is that there is a crisis of belief in the modern world that has its roots in the rationalist revolution of the eighteenth century. During the Enlightenment, philosophers such as Voltaire claimed that through the application of reason alone, people could control their destiny. This marked an incredibly optimistic turn in world history. In the nineteenth century, two beliefs stemmed from this rationalist notion: a belief in progress and a belief in the perfectibility of man. This produced an even rosier world view than before. It wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century, with the writings first of Sigmund Freud and later of Max Weber, that the chinks in the armor appeared. These two thinkers destroyed Western man’s belief in rationality and progress. The current quest for leadership is a direct consequence of their work.

The founder of psychoanalysis, Freud theorized that beneath the surface of the rational mind was the unconscious. He supposed that the unconscious was responsible for a fair proportion of human behavior. Weber, the leading critic of Marx and a brilliant sociologist, also explored the limits of reason. Indeed, for him, the most destructive force operating in institutions was something he called technical rationality—that is, rationality without morality.

For Weber, technical rationality was embodied in one particular organizational form—the bureaucracy. Bureaucracies, he said, were frightening not for their inefficiencies but for their efficiencies and their capacity to dehumanize people. The tragic novels of Franz Kafka bear stark testimony to the debilitating effects of bureaucracy. Even more chilling was the testimony of Hitler’s lieutenant Adolf Eichmann that “I was just a good bureaucrat.” Weber believed that the only power that could resist bureaucratization was charismatic leadership. But even this has a very mixed record in the twentieth century. Although there have been inspirational and transformational wartime leaders, there have also been charismatic leaders like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung who committed horrendous atrocities.

By the twentieth century, there was much skepticism about the power of reason and man’s ability to progress continuously. Thus, for both pragmatic and philosophic reasons, an intense interest in the concept of leadership began to develop. And indeed, in the 1920s, the first serious research started. The first leadership theory—trait theory—attempted to identify the common characteristics of effective leaders. To that end, leaders were weighed and measured and subjected to a battery of psychological tests. But no one could identify what effective leaders had in common. Trait theory fell into disfavor soon after expensive studies concluded that effective leaders were either above-average height or below.

Trait theory was replaced by style theory in the 1940s, primarily in the United States. One particular style of leadership was singled out as having the most potential. It was a hail-fellow-well-met democratic style of leadership, and thousands of American executives were sent to training courses to learn how to behave this way. There was only one drawback. The theory was essentially capturing the spirit of FDR’s America—open, democratic, and meritocratic. And so when McCarthyism and the Cold War surpassed the New Deal, a completely new style was required. Suddenly, everyone was encouraged to behave like a Cold War warrior! The poor executive was completely confused.

Recent leadership thinking is dominated by contingency theory, which says that leadership is dependent on a particular situation. That’s fundamentally true, but given that there are endless contingencies in life, there are endless varieties of leadership. Once again, the beleaguered executive looking for a model to help him is hopelessly lost.

(Video) Why should anyone be led by you? | Gareth Jones

For this article, we ransacked all the leadership theories to come up with the four essential leadership qualities. Like Weber, we look at leadership that is primarily antibureaucratic and charismatic. From trait theory, we derived the qualities of weaknesses and differences. Unlike the original trait theorists, however, we do not believe that all leaders have the same weaknesses; our research only showed that all leaders expose some flaws. Tough empathy grew out of style theory, which looked at different kinds of relationships between leaders and their followers. Finally, context theory set the stage for needing to know what skills to use in various circumstances.

Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? (1)

Reveal Your Weaknesses

When leaders reveal their weaknesses, they show us who they are—warts and all. This may mean admitting that they’re irritable on Monday mornings, that they are somewhat disorganized, or even rather shy. Such admissions work because people need to see leaders own up to some flaw before they participate willingly in an endeavor. Exposing a weakness establishes trust and thus helps get folks on board. Indeed, if executives try to communicate that they’re perfect at everything, there will be no need for anyone to help them with anything. They won’t need followers. They’ll signal that they can do it all themselves.

Beyond creating trust and a collaborative atmosphere, communicating a weakness also builds solidarity between followers and leaders. Consider a senior executive we know at a global management consultancy. He agreed to give a major presentation despite being badly afflicted by physical shaking caused by a medical condition. The otherwise highly critical audience greeted this courageous display of weakness with a standing ovation. By giving the talk, he had dared to say, “I am just like you—imperfect.” Sharing an imperfection is so effective because it underscores a human being’s authenticity. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, is a brilliant businessman and a hero in the United Kingdom. (Indeed, the Virgin brand is so linked to him personally that succession is a significant issue.) Branson is particularly effective at communicating his vulnerability. He is ill at ease and fumbles incessantly when interviewed in public. It’s a weakness, but it’s Richard Branson. That’s what revealing a weakness is all about: showing your followers that you are genuine and approachable—human and humane.

Another advantage to exposing a weakness is that it offers a leader valuable protection. Human nature being what it is, if you don’t show some weakness, then observers may invent one for you. Celebrities and politicians have always known this. Often, they deliberately give the public something to talk about, knowing full well that if they don’t, the newspapers will invent something even worse. Princess Diana may have aired her eating disorder in public, but she died with her reputation intact, indeed even enhanced.

That said, the most effective leaders know that exposing a weakness must be done carefully. They own up to selective weaknesses. Knowing which weakness to disclose is a highly honed art. The golden rule is never to expose a weakness that will be seen as a fatal flaw—by which we mean a flaw that jeopardizes central aspects of your professional role. Consider the new finance director of a major corporation. He can’t suddenly confess that he’s never understood discounted cash flow. A leader should reveal only a tangential flaw—and perhaps even several of them. Paradoxically, this admission will help divert attention away from major weaknesses.

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Another well-known strategy is to pick a weakness that can in some ways be considered a strength, such as being a workaholic. When leaders expose these limited flaws, people won’t see much of anything and little harm will come to them. There is an important caveat, however: if the leader’s vulnerability is not perceived to be genuine, he won’t gain anyone’s support. Instead he will open himself up to derision and scorn. One scenario we saw repeatedly in our research was one in which a CEO feigns absentmindedness to conceal his inconsistency or even dishonesty. This is a sure way to alienate followers who will remember accurately what happened or what was said.

Become a Sensor

Inspirational leaders rely heavily on their instincts to know when to reveal a weakness or a difference. We call them good situation sensors, and by that we mean that they can collect and interpret soft data. They can sniff out the signals in the environment and sense what’s going on without having anything spelled out for them.

Franz Humer, the CEO of Roche, is a classic sensor. He is highly accomplished in detecting shifts in climate and ambience; he can read subtle cues and sense underlying currents of opinion that elude less perceptive people. Humer says he developed this skill as a tour guide in his mid-twenties when he was responsible for groups of 100 or more. “There was no salary, only tips,” he explains. “Pretty soon, I knew how to hone in on particular groups. Eventually, I could predict within 10% how much I could earn from any particular group.” Indeed, great sensors can easily gauge unexpressed feelings; they can very accurately judge whether relationships are working or not. The process is complex, and as anyone who has ever encountered it knows, the results are impressive.

Consider a human resources executive we worked with in a multinational entertainment company. One day he got news of a distribution problem in Italy that had the potential to affect the company’s worldwide operations. As he was thinking about how to hide the information temporarily from the Paris-based CEO while he worked on a solution, the phone rang. It was the CEO saying, “Tell me, Roberto, what the hell’s going on in Milan?” The CEO was already aware that something was wrong. How? He had his networks, of course. But in large part, he was gifted at detecting information that wasn’t aimed at him. He could read the silences and pick up on nonverbal cues in the organization.

(Video) Gareth Jones - Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?

Not surprisingly, the most impressive business leaders we have worked with are all very refined sensors. Ray van Schaik, the chairman of Heineken in the early 1990s, is a good example. Conservative and urbane, van Schaik’s genius lay in his ability to read signals he received from colleagues and from Freddie Heineken, the third-generation family member who was “always there without being there.” While some senior managers spent a lot of time second-guessing the major shareholder, van Schaik developed an ability to “just know” what Heineken wanted. This ability was based on many years of working with him on the Heineken board, but it was more than that—van Schaik could read Heineken even though they had very different personalities and didn’t work together directly.

Success stories like van Schaik’s come with a word of warning. While leaders must be great sensors, sensing can create problems. That’s because in making fine judgments about how far they can go, leaders risk losing their followers. The political situation in Northern Ireland is a powerful example. Over the past two years, several leaders—David Trimble, Gerry Adams, and Tony Blair, together with George Mitchell—have taken unprecedented initiatives toward peace. At every step of the way, these leaders had to sense how far they could go without losing their electorates. In business, think of mergers and acquisitions. Unless organizational leaders and negotiators can convince their followers in a timely way that the move is positive, value and goodwill quickly erode. This is the situation recently faced by Vodafone and France Telecom in the sale and purchase of Orange.

Sensing can create problems. In making fine judgments about how far they can go, leaders risk losing their followers.

There is another danger associated with sensing skills. By definition, sensing a situation involves projection—that state of mind whereby you attribute your own ideas to other people and things. When a person “projects,” his thoughts may interfere with the truth. Imagine a radio that picks up any number of signals, many of which are weak and distorted. Situation sensing is like that; you can’t always be sure what you’re hearing because of all the static. The employee who sees her boss distracted and leaps to the conclusion that she is going to be fired is a classic example. Most skills become heightened under threat, but particularly during situation sensing. Such oversensitivity in a leader can be a recipe for disaster. For this reason, sensing capability must always be framed by reality testing. Even the most gifted sensor may need to validate his perceptions with a trusted adviser or a member of his inner team.

Practice Tough Empathy

Unfortunately, there’s altogether too much hype nowadays about the idea that leaders must show concern for their teams. There’s nothing worse than seeing a manager return from the latest interpersonal-skills training program with “concern” for others. Real leaders don’t need a training program to convince their employees that they care. Real leaders empathize fiercely with the people they lead. They also care intensely about the work their employees do.

Consider Alain Levy, the former CEO of Polygram. Although he often comes across as a rather aloof intellectual, Levy is well able to close the distance between himself and his followers. On one occasion, he helped some junior record executives in Australia choose singles off albums. Picking singles is a critical task in the music business: the selection of a song can make or break the album. Levy sat down with the young people and took on the work with passion. “You bloody idiots,” he added his voice to the melee, “you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about; we always have a dance track first!” Within 24 hours, the story spread throughout the company; it was the best PR Levy ever got. “Levy really knows how to pick singles,” people said. In fact, he knew how to identify with the work, and he knew how to enter his followers’ world—one where strong, colorful language is the norm—to show them that he cared.

Clearly, as the above example illustrates, we do not believe that the empathy of inspirational leaders is the soft kind described in so much of the management literature. On the contrary, we feel that real leaders manage through a unique approach we call tough empathy. Tough empathy means giving people what they need, not what they want. Organizations like the Marine Corps and consulting firms specialize in tough empathy. Recruits are pushed to be the best that they can be; “grow or go” is the motto. Chris Satterwaite, the CEO of Bell Pottinger Communications and a former chief executive of several ad agencies, understands what tough empathy is all about. He adeptly handles the challenges of managing creative people while making tough decisions. “If I have to, I can be ruthless,” he says. “But while they’re with me, I promise my people that they’ll learn.”

At its best, tough empathy balances respect for the individual and for the task at hand. Attending to both, however, isn’t easy, especially when the business is in survival mode. At such times, caring leaders have to give selflessly to the people around them and know when to pull back. Consider a situation at Unilever at a time when it was developing Persil Power, a detergent that eventually had to be removed from the market because it destroyed clothes that were laundered in it. Even though the product was showing early signs of trouble, CEO Niall FitzGerald stood by his troops. “That was the popular place to be, but I should not have been there,” he says now. “I should have stood back, cool and detached, looked at the whole field, watched out for the customer.” But caring with detachment is not easy, especially since, when done right, tough empathy is harder on you than on your employees. “Some theories of leadership make caring look effortless. It isn’t,” says Paulanne Mancuso, president and CEO of Calvin Klein Cosmetics. “You have to do things you don’t want to do, and that’s hard.” It’s tough to be tough.

Four Popular Myths About Leadership

In both our research and consulting work, we have seen executives who profoundly misunderstand what makes an inspirational leader. Here are four of the most common myths:

Everyone can be a leader.

Not true. Many executives don’t have the self-knowledge or the authenticity necessary for leadership. And self-knowledge and authenticity are only part of the equation. Individuals must also want to be leaders, and many talented employees are not interested in shouldering that responsibility. Others prefer to devote more time to their private lives than to their work. After all, there is more to life than work, and more to work than being the boss.

Leaders deliver business results.

Not always. If results were always a matter of good leadership, picking leaders would be easy. In every case, the best strategy would be to go after people in companies with the best results. But clearly, things are not that simple. Businesses in quasi-monopolistic industries can often do very well with competent management rather than great leadership. Equally, some well-led businesses do not necessarily produce results, particularly in the short term.

People who get to the top are leaders.

Not necessarily. One of the most persistent misperceptions is that people in leadership positions are leaders. But people who make it to the top may have done so because of political acumen, not necessarily because of true leadership quality. What’s more, real leaders are found all over the organization, from the executive suite to the shop floor. By definition, leaders are simply people who have followers, and rank doesn’t have much to do with that. Effective military organizations like the U.S. Navy have long realized the importance of developing leaders throughout the organization.

Leaders are great coaches.

Rarely. A whole cottage industry has grown up around the teaching that good leaders ought to be good coaches. But that thinking assumes that a single person can both inspire the troops and impart technical skills. Of course, it’s possible that great leaders may also be great coaches, but we see that only occasionally. More typical are leaders like Steve Jobs whose distinctive strengths lie in their ability to excite others through their vision rather than through their coaching talents.

Tough empathy also has the benefit of impelling leaders to take risks. When Greg Dyke took over at the BBC, his commercial competitors were able to spend substantially more on programs than the BBC could. Dyke quickly realized that in order to thrive in a digital world, the BBC needed to increase its expenditures. He explained this openly and directly to the staff. Once he had secured their buy-in, he began thoroughly restructuring the organization. Although many employees were let go, he was able to maintain people’s commitment. Dyke attributed his success to his tough empathy with employees: “Once you have the people with you, you can make the difficult decisions that need to be made.”

One final point about tough empathy: those more apt to use it are people who really care about something. And when people care deeply about something—anything—they’re more likely to show their true selves. They will not only communicate authenticity, which is the precondition for leadership, but they will show that they are doing more than just playing a role. People do not commit to executives who merely live up to the obligations of their jobs. They want more. They want someone who cares passionately about the people and the work—just as they do.

(Video) Why should anyone be led by you? - HR Strategy Forum Lecture ! London Business School

Can Female Leaders Be True to Themselves?

Gender differences can be used to either positive or negative effect. Women, in particular, are prone to being stereotyped according to differences—albeit usually not the ones that they would choose. Partly this is because there are fewer women than men in management positions. According to research in social psychology, if a group’s representation falls below 20% in a given society, then it’s going to be subjected to stereotyping whether it likes it or not. For women, this may mean being typecast as a “helper,” “nurturer,” or “seductress”—labels that may prevent them from defining their own differences.

In earlier research, we discovered that many women—particularly women in their fifties—try to avoid this dynamic by disappearing. They try to make themselves invisible. They wear clothes that disguise their bodies; they try to blend in with men by talking tough. That’s certainly one way to avoid negative stereotyping, but the problem is that it reduces a woman’s chances of being seen as a potential leader. She’s not promoting her real self and differences.

Another response to negative stereotyping is to collectively resist it—for example, by mounting a campaign that promotes the rights, opportunities, and even the number of women in the workplace. But on a day-to-day basis, survival is often all women have time for, therefore making it impossible for them to organize themselves formally.

A third response that emerged in our research was that women play into stereotyping to personal advantage. Some women, for example, knowingly play the role of “nurturer” at work, but they do it with such wit and skill that they are able to benefit from it. The cost of such a strategy?

It furthers harmful stereotypes and continues to limit opportunities for other women to communicate their genuine personal differences.

Dare to Be Different

Another quality of inspirational leaders is that they capitalize on what’s unique about themselves. In fact, using these differences to great advantage is the most important quality of the four we’ve mentioned. The most effective leaders deliberately use differences to keep a social distance. Even as they are drawing their followers close to them, inspirational leaders signal their separateness.

Often, a leader will show his differences by having a distinctly different dress style or physical appearance, but typically he will move on to distinguish himself through qualities like imagination, loyalty, expertise, or even a handshake. Anything can be a difference, but it is important to communicate it. Most people, however, are hesitant to communicate what’s unique about themselves, and it can take years for them to be fully aware of what sets them apart. This is a serious disadvantage in a world where networking is so critical and where teams need to be formed overnight.

Some leaders know exactly how to take advantage of their differences. Take Sir John Harvey-Jones, the former CEO of ICI—what was once the largest manufacturing company in the United Kingdom. When he wrote his autobiography a few years ago, a British newspaper advertised the book with a sketch of Harvey-Jones. The profile had a moustache, long hair, and a loud tie. The drawing was in black and white, but everyone knew who it was. Of course, John Harvey-Jones didn’t get to the top of ICI because of eye-catching ties and long hair. But he was very clever in developing differences that he exploited to show that he was adventurous, entrepreneurial, and unique—he was John Harvey-Jones.

There are other people who aren’t as aware of their differences but still use them to great effect. For instance, Richard Surface, former managing director of the UK-based Pearl Insurance, always walked the floor and overtook people, using his own pace as a means of communicating urgency. Still other leaders are fortunate enough to have colleagues point out their differences for them. As the BBC’s Greg Dyke puts it, “My partner tells me, ‘You do things instinctively that you don’t understand. What I worry about is that in the process of understanding them you could lose them!’” Indeed, what emerged in our interviews is that most leaders start off not knowing what their differences are but eventually come to know—and use—them more effectively over time. Franz Humer at Roche, for instance, now realizes that he uses his emotions to evoke reactions in others.

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Most of the differences we’ve described are those that tend to be apparent, either to the leader himself or to the colleagues around him. But there are differences that are more subtle but still have very powerful effects. For instance, David Prosser, the CEO of Legal and General, one of Europe’s largest and most successful insurance companies, is an outsider. He is not a smooth city type; in fact, he comes from industrial South Wales. And though generally approachable, Prosser has a hard edge, which he uses in an understated but highly effective way. At a recent cocktail party, a rather excitable sales manager had been claiming how good the company was at cross-selling products. In a low voice, Prosser intervened: “We may be good, but we’re not good enough.” A chill swept through the room. What was Prosser’s point? Don’t feel so close you can relax! I’m the leader, and I make that call. Don’t you forget it. He even uses this edge to good effect with the top team—it keeps everyone on their toes.

Inspirational leaders use separateness to motivate others to perform better. It is not that they are being Machiavellian but that they recognize instinctively that followers will push themselves if their leader is just a little aloof. Leadership, after all, is not a popularity contest.

Executives can overdifferentiate themselves in their determination to express their separateness.

One danger, of course, is that executives can overdifferentiate themselves in their determination to express their separateness. Indeed, some leaders lose contact with their followers, and doing so is fatal. Once they create too much distance, they stop being good sensors, and they lose the ability to identify and care. That’s what appeared to happen during Robert Horton’s tenure as chairman and CEO of BP during the early 1990s. Horton’s conspicuous display of his considerable—indeed, daunting—intelligence sometimes led others to see him as arrogant and self-aggrandizing. That resulted in overdifferentiation, and it eventually contributed to Horton’s dismissal just three years after he was appointed to the position.

Leadership in Action

All four of the qualities described here are necessary for inspirational leadership, but they cannot be used mechanically. They must become or must already be part of an executive’s personality. That’s why the “recipe” business books—those that prescribe to the Lee Iaccoca or Bill Gates way—often fail. No one can just ape another leader. So the challenge facing prospective leaders is for them to be themselves, but with more skill. That can be done by making yourself increasingly aware of the four leadership qualities we describe and by manipulating these qualities to come up with a personal style that works for you. Remember, there is no universal formula, and what’s needed will vary from context to context. What’s more, the results are often subtle, as the following story about Sir Richard Sykes, the highly successful chairman and CEO of Glaxo Wellcome, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, illustrates.

When he was running the R&D division at Glaxo, Sykes gave a year-end review to the company’s top scientists. At the end of the presentation, a researcher asked him about one of the company’s new compounds, and the two men engaged in a short heated debate. The question-answer session continued for another 20 minutes, at the end of which the researcher broached the subject again. “Dr. Sykes,” he began in a loud voice, “you have still failed to understand the structure of the new compound.” You could feel Sykes’s temper rise through the soles of his feet. He marched to the back of the room and displayed his anger before the intellectual brainpower of the entire company. “All right, lad,” he yelled, “let us have a look at your notes!”

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    The Sykes story provides the ideal framework for discussing the four leadership qualities. To some people, Sykes’s irritability could have seemed like inappropriate weakness. But in this context, his show of temper demonstrated Sykes’s deep belief in the discussion about basic science—a company value. Therefore, his willingness to get angry actually cemented his credibility as a leader. He also showed that he was a very good sensor. If Sykes had exploded earlier in the meeting, he would have quashed the debate. Instead, his anger was perceived as defending the faith. The story also reveals Sykes’s ability to identify with his colleagues and their work. By talking to the researcher as a fellow scientist, he was able to create an empathic bond with his audience. He really cared, though his caring was clearly tough empathy. Finally, the story indicates Sykes’s own willingness to show his differences. Despite being one of the United Kingdom’s most successful businessmen, he has not conformed to “standard” English. On the contrary, Sykes proudly retains his distinctive northern accent. He also doesn’t show the typical British reserve and decorum; he radiates passion. Like other real leaders, he acts and communicates naturally. Indeed, if we were to sum up the entire year-end review at Glaxo Wellcome, we’d say that Sykes was being himself—with great skill.

    Unraveling the Mystery

    As long as business is around, we will continue to pick apart the underlying ingredients of true leadership. And there will always be as many theories as there are questions. But of all the facets of leadership that one might investigate, there are few so difficult as understanding what it takes to develop leaders. The four leadership qualities are a necessary first step. Taken together, they tell executives to be authentic. As we counsel the executives we coach: “Be yourselves—more—with skill.” There can be no advice more difficult to follow than that.

    A version of this article appeared in the September–October 2000 issue of Harvard Business Review.

    (Video) Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?


    Why do people be led by you? ›

    In this lively and practical book, Goffee and Jones draw from extensive research to reveal how to hone and deploy one's unique leadership assets while managing the inherent tensions at the heart of successful leadership: showing emotion and withholding it, getting close to followers while keeping distance, and ...

    How do you want to be led? ›

    5 Ways Young Professionals Want to Be Led
    1. Empower us; don't micromanage our talent. ...
    2. Sponsor us; serve as role models. ...
    3. Allow us to manage our own brand; don't define us. ...
    4. Trust us; don't question our intentions. ...
    5. Challenge us; don't marginalize us.
    Mar 12, 2012

    Who are you how you lead? ›

    Simply put: Who you are is how you lead. To grow into your best version of a leader, start with a commitment to authenticity. Sustaining an enduring alignment between your values and your actions is vital. It's what lets you be you and it serves as a bond of integrity that enables your followers to trust you.

    Why would anyone become a leader? ›

    Some people seek a leadership role because they have ideas to improve the work environment and that's a great leadership habit to have. As Grace Hopper once said, "You manage things and lead people." In software teams, “managing things” means leaders constantly improve the environment for their team.

    What does it mean to be led by someone? ›

    1. To provide guidance or leadership through some means or manner.

    How do you know if you're being led on? ›

    9 Signs You're Being Led on By a Woman You're Dating
    1. She's New In Town. ...
    2. She Takes More Than She Gives. ...
    3. She Doesn't Respond To You With Any Urgency. ...
    4. She Always Tells You What You Want To Hear. ...
    5. She Always Uses The Restroom When The Bill Comes. ...
    6. She Doesn't Kiss or Have Sex With You (Always An Excuse)
    Mar 19, 2020

    How do you lead by example in the workplace? ›

    Leaders use the following ways to lead by example and inspire their followers:
    1. #1 Listen to the team. ...
    2. #2 Respect the chain of command. ...
    3. #3 Get your hands dirty. ...
    4. #4 Deliver on promised results. ...
    5. #5 Resolve conflicts quickly. ...
    6. #6 Value people. ...
    7. Organizational cohesiveness. ...
    8. Respect and trust.
    Oct 26, 2022

    Why is it important to lead yourself first? ›

    Leading yourself means that you take a deep look at who you are, where you have strengths, and where your areas of opportunity could be getting in your way. Once you are comfortable with who you are, then leading others authentically becomes much easier.

    How do you lead? ›

    Characteristics of a Successful Leadership Style
    1. Choose to lead and practice adaptive leadership.
    2. Be the person others choose to follow.
    3. Provide a vision for the future.
    4. Provide inspiration.
    5. Make other people feel important and appreciated.
    6. Live your values. ...
    7. Leaders set the pace by their expectations and example.
    Oct 4, 2020

    What does it mean to lead from the heart? ›

    Leading from the heart means leading from that place of engaging with your purpose, taking responsibility for your actions, and learning how to trust your heartfelt instincts in times of trouble.

    Why do you care about being a good leader? ›

    6 benefits of outstanding leadership

    More commitment from employees: people happily follow leaders whose vision helps them get closer to their goals (both personal and professional). Improve productivity: when employees feel good both mentally and emotionally, they work harder and more proactively.

    What is your idea about leadership? ›

    Leaders set direction and help themselves and others to do the right thing to move forward. To do this they create an inspiring vision, then motivate and inspire others to achieve it. They also manage delivery of the vision, either directly or indirectly, and build and coach their teams to make them ever stronger.

    Which qualities make an effective leader according to Bennis select all that apply? ›

    According to Warren Bennis, vision, passion, self-knowledge, integrity, curiosity, risk-taking are some of the fundamental traits a leader must possess. Further, it is said that nobody got these traits inborn, they learn it with experience, from the mentors they choose in their lives.

    Why would others follow you as their leader? ›

    Their research showed that 'followers' have a very clear picture of what they want and need from the most influential leaders. The followers' four basic needs were found to be: Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope.

    Why should we hire you for team leader? ›

    When this question shows up, you need to show the interviewer why you would be a good fit for the role they are looking for and the leadership skills you possess. Show traits that make you a good team leader such as multitasking, being a team player, being understanding and considerate, leading by example, etc.

    Why do you want to be a leader answers? ›

    WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE A TEAM LEADER? Interview ... - YouTube

    How you can be led by the Spirit? ›

    Step by step guidance through the Scriptures to steer Christians away from spiritual pitfalls and help them to follow the Spirit of God in every area of life. The conscience, the inward witness, prophecy, visions, and training the human spirit.

    What does leading me on mean? ›

    Entice someone into proceeding, mislead; also, deceive someone, especially pretending romantic interest. For example, He's leading her on to reveal more of her family history, or She's just leading him on; she has a serious boyfriend at home. [

    Do you say led by or lead by? ›

    Led is the correct way to spell the past tense of lead. Lead is a common misspelling of the past tense of the verb lead.

    How do you lead people you dont know? ›

    How to Lead a Team of People You Don't Know
    1. Communicate your values. ...
    2. Create goals with the team. ...
    3. Overcommunicate. ...
    4. Solve a long-standing problem quickly.
    Sep 15, 2014

    How you lead when people not responding or helping? ›

    Say something like, “I've noticed that I often don't hear back from you about requests I send in email – is there something you'd like me to do differently when I have things I need from you?” At a minimum, this will call the person's attention to the problem, but you might also get insight that you can use – such as ...

    What are the reasons why some people don't want to lead or become a leader? ›

    If you have a reluctant leader, there's a good chance that one or more of these will apply:
    • They're simply afraid. ...
    • They're waiting for an opportunity. ...
    • They don't know how. ...
    • They've failed in the past. ...
    • They're waiting for a leadership title.

    Why do people lead others on? ›

    The reasons that people lead others on most often are: The 'leader-on' is afraid or otherwise unwilling to reject the other person. Perhaps they sense that the other person is sensitive, and legitimately worry that their rejection may hurt them badly.

    What do you do when you led someone on? ›

    Apologize for leading him on.

    Tell him that you're sorry for giving him the wrong idea. Let him know it's not his fault for feeling the way he felt. Keep it short and take ownership for leading him on. You could try, "I'm sorry for leading you on and giving you the wrong idea" or "This is my fault.

    What to say to someone who has lead you on? ›

    Be sensitive, but be clear that you want her to stop leading you on and to date her exclusively. Don't argue with her if she needs time to think it over. You can say, "I want to be with you, and I hope you feel the same, but I know you might need some time to think about it.

    Why should you lead by example? ›

    The benefits of leading by example

    Leading by example can increase trust and team engagement. The people you manage pay a lot of attention to what you say—and what you do. If what you're doing and saying are inconsistent, that inconsistency can lead to frustration and lack of trust.

    How will you lead your team? ›

    7 Ways to Lead Your Team to Success This Year
    • 1) Focus on Leadership Development. ...
    • 2) Give Them What They Need. ...
    • 3) Bring Back the Good Vibes. ...
    • 4) Be Decisive. ...
    • 5) Encourage Your Team to Be Bold. ...
    • 6) Be Transparent. ...
    • 7) Adopt a Win-Win Mentality.

    Why is it important to lead by example in the workplace? ›

    Builds trust and respect

    Someone who leads by example can expect to receive trust and respect from their team. Superiors see them as someone who is capable of running a team, and employees see them as trusted mentors. A trusted leader can also inspire teammates to respect and trust each other.

    How can I lead others? ›

    To lead, you must be able to connect, motivate, and inspire a sense of ownership of shared objectives. Heightening your capacity to lead others requires being able to see how you think and act, and how your behavior affects others. Leading well requires a continuous journey of personal development.

    Who is the person that you need to lead first? ›

    One thing is certain: The first person you lead must be yourself. It's hard to lead others when you're not leading yourself. This may sound odd, but it's true. We have no actual control over others.

    How can I be a good leader of myself? ›

    Here are 12 ways that becoming the leader of your own life will make a big difference:
    1. Set goals for your life. ...
    2. Lead by example. ...
    3. Be fearless. ...
    4. Honor others. ...
    5. Embrace new ideas and opportunities. ...
    6. Question everything. ...
    7. Do what's right, not what's easy. ...
    8. Find goodness and beauty in everyone and everything.

    What makes a good leader essay? ›

    A person must be confident enough to ensure others follow him. The leader must have confidence in his decisions and actions. If he is unsure, then how can people have the desire to follow him. A good leader must certainly inspire others.

    What makes someone a good follower? ›

    Good followers are good workers. They are diligent, motivated, committed, pay attention to detail and make the effort. Leaders have a responsibility to create an environment that permits these qualities but regardless, it is the responsibility of the follower to be a good worker.

    How can I be a good example for others? ›

    7 Simple Ways to Lead by Example
    1. Get your hands dirty. Do the work and know your trade. ...
    2. Watch what you say. Actions do speak louder than words, but words can have a direct impact on morale. ...
    3. Respect the chain of command. ...
    4. Listen to the team. ...
    5. Take responsibility. ...
    6. Let the team do their thing. ...
    7. Take care of yourself.
    Apr 23, 2013

    Why should you lead from the heart? ›

    The idea of leading from the heart is really just about caring about people in a way that supports their most fundamental needs. We have this need for connection, we have this need to grow, and to feel that what we do every day matters and is appreciated. These aren't wants, these are needs.

    Why is leading with heart important? ›

    A 21st-century business principle

    For leaders, leading with heart means showing people that you're concerned for their wellbeing, sensitive to their circumstances, and that you want the best for them.

    How do you lead with heart and purpose? ›

    Here are some tips to help you lead with purpose.
    1. Don't just have a vision, share it.
    2. Ask for feedback.
    3. Help your people grow.
    4. Know your people. Get personal. At the end of the day, relationships matter. People do not leave jobs over money, but more so because they do not feel appreciated and valued.
    Aug 10, 2020

    How do you use LED in a sentence? ›

    Led is the past tense of the verb lead:
    1. She led the party through the marshland.
    2. She lead the party through the marshland.
    3. The accident led to an astonishing discovery.
    4. The accident lead to an astonishing discovery.
    5. They led us to believe we were welcome guests.
    6. They lead us to believe we were welcome guests.
    Jun 8, 2020

    Is it LED or lead? ›

    In general, “lead” is the present tense version of the verb that means to spearhead, guide, or take the first position, while “led” is the passive, infinitive, and past tense version of the verb.

    What does an LED do? ›

    Compared with conventional light sources that first convert electrical energy into heat, and then into light, LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) convert electrical energy directly into light, delivering efficient light generation with little-wasted electricity.

    What is LED used for? ›

    LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are the latest development in the lighting industry. Made popular by their efficiency, range of color, and long lifespan, LED lights are ideal for numerous applications, including night lighting, art lighting, and outdoor lighting.

    What is led with example? ›

    A light-emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor device that emits light when current flows through it. Electrons in the semiconductor recombine with electron holes, releasing energy in the form of photons.
    Light-emitting diode.
    First productionOctober 1962
    Pin configurationAnode and cathode
    Electronic symbol
    4 more rows

    What is another word for led to? ›

    What is another word for led to?
    affectedgave rise to
    promptedset off
    233 more rows

    What kind of word is led? ›

    Pro tip: In most cases, "led" is a verb. It is the past tense and past participle of "lead" as a verb when the pronunciation of "lead" rhymes with "bead."

    Has led me meaning? ›

    To cause or compel force one to do something. The sales agent led me to believe I would continue paying the lower price if I signed up for the TV service, but when I got my first bill I learned that wasn't the case.

    How do you remember led and lead? ›

    This may help you remember that "lead," meaning a leadership position, is pronounced with a long "e," while "led" as the past tense of "lead," as well as "lead" the metal, is pronounced with a short "e."

    Is it teacher led or lead? ›

    Led is the past tense of lead. That might seem simple, but led and lead are commonly confused with one another. This is probably because they don't follow the same rule as the word read, in which the past tense and the present tense are both simply read.

    What are the characteristics of LED? ›

    • LED works always on the forward biasing condition, and it emits light when energized.
    • The recombination of electrons and holes at the junction leads to the production of light energy. ...
    • To increase the frequency of light emitted from a Light Emitting Diode, the potential barrier of the diode is increased.

    What are the types of LED? ›

    Fundamentally, there are three different types of LED technology that are used in LED lighting – DIP, SMD and COB.
    • Dual In-Line Package (DIP) LEDs. DIP LED Lights. ...
    • Surface Mounted Diode (SMD) LEDs. SMD LED Spotlight Bulb. ...
    • Chip on Board (COB) LEDs. COB LED Spotlight Bulb.
    Oct 10, 2017

    How is a LED made? ›

    LEDs are made using p-n junctions. As electrons pass through one crystal to the other they fill electron holes. They emit photons (light). This is also how the semiconductor laser works.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of LED? ›

    Benefits and drawbacks of LEDs
    • Lifetime. As solid-state light sources, LEDs have very long lifetimes and are generally very robust. ...
    • Standardization. The general lack of standardization in the LED field is an ongoing issue. ...
    • Low maintenance. ...
    • Efficiency. ...
    • Low power consumption. ...
    • Brightness. ...
    • Heat. ...
    • Cost.
    Jan 24, 2005

    How do LEDs save energy? ›

    Simply put: a LED light uses far less energy (watt) to produce the same light output (lumen). An example: a LED bulb uses only 2.5 watts to produce a light output of 115 lumen, while a traditional bulb uses 15 watts (or 6 times more energy!) to produce the same lumen output.


    1. Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? - Authentic leadership
    (Fraser Marlow)
    2. UHR Conference 2017: Prof Gareth Jones, Why Should Anyone be Led by You?
    (Universities Human Resources, UHR)
    3. HBR Article II Why Should Anyone Be Led By You II Summary
    (ProBuzz Knowledge)
    4. Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? Part 1
    (Faith Presbyterian Church)
    5. Why Should Anyone Be Led by You ™ Authentic Leadership
    (GP Strategies)
    6. Episode 157 - Why should anyone be led by you?

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