REALity Question: How Can I Attract Other Leaders?

Today I’m tackling another REALity Question! The purpose of our REALity Questions series is to give us the opportunity to discuss real leadership challenges we face and some of the practical solutions to those challenges. Here’s today’s question:

How do I become a leader who attracts leaders rather than just followers?

What a great question! If we only attract followers, we can’t multiply our efforts in performance and company growth. On the other hand, the more leaders you grow, the more leaders you attract. And we all know that “everything rises and falls on leadership.”

Think about it. As you perfect your leadership abilities, you’ll notice over time that you’ll start attracting higher caliber leaders. But the reverse is also true. If you lack the ability to lead or if you don’t care about growing others, you will attract lower caliber followers.

So how can you attract leaders to your team? Here are three suggestions:

1. Allow Your Team to Think

Followers don’t want to just follow commands or be handed the completed plan. They want to be part of the process.

Now, I know it’s not unusual for leaders to have a preferred plan already thought though. That’s okay and somewhat recommended. But you still need to involve your team in the plan. This means giving your team the opportunity to brainstorm about the challenge, so they can be a valued part of the plan and you can double check your thinking. If you really think you have the plan or strategy completely thought through, then I suggest you present it to your team, giving them permission to critique and approve it.

Giving your team the opportunity to think and then share their feedback (without fearing your reaction) is a top way to attract potential leaders to your team because they see an opportunity to serve and add value beyond just producing.

2. Invest in Your Team

Another great way to attract other leaders is by investing in your team. Spend time growing them. Be intentional about their growth – whether it’s leadership improvement or new skills development – during their time with you. When a leader or a follower passes through my leadership wake, I want to make sure I assisted in their growth while we are together.

3. Challenge Your Team

This last point is crucial. I can think of several excellent leaders on current and former teams who would have left me if I didn’t challenge them. Producers and potential leaders want to be stretched and challenged. You know the old saying that a rubber band is useless unless it is stretched. Some of your best leaders are exactly the same way. So stretch them. This might mean putting them in charge of a project, giving them a budget to oversee, or having them lead a meeting.

Who Are You Attracting?

John Maxwell once taught a lesson on knowing the health of your organization and of your role as a leader. He said he could tell what kind of a leader you are by watching two things: who is joining the team and who is leaving the team. If the people leaving a team are higher caliber than the people joining a team, there is a leadership issue somewhere within the company.

You have an enormous opportunity to determine your leadership philosophy! Challenge yourself to become a leader of leaders instead of merely a leader of followers. If you do, then I must warn you that you are not only in for an incredible ride, but more importantly, your wake will be full of people that you have impacted. In the end, more than title or money, that is a leader’s most authentic and fulfilling reward.


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  • Cashlie says:

    Thanks for the lesson!

  • Linda Sasser says:

    Mike thanks for your comments! Great thoughts, I’m with you.

    Cashlie, your questions are so good. That exact question was asked of me earlier in the year. Here’s the deal. Some are called to lead and some aren’t. Those that are called must pick up that sword. You’ll know you’re called by the “pull” and passion that God instills in you. The desire to impact others is too strong to ignore.

    All followers have a place somewhere… maybe on your team and maybe not.

    Of course you give them a chance but, as Mike points out, you can’t let it linger.

    Love your questions and LOVE your passion to learn!

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  • Cashlie says:

    This is great!
    One thing I’ve learned in all my years of playing sports. There are two types of coaches. Coaches you win games for and coaches you win games in spite of. I know I want to be the first type of coach/leader. This rings true with your point. Being a leader that people want to do for based on all of the tips you’ve listed above means developing people on your team into leaders

    But here’s two questions for ya Coach.

    1. How do you lead those that don’t want to follow? You know…those people with the negative attitudes, and unwillingness to try.
    2. What do you do with those people who are just fine being followers? Do you embrace their loyalty or still try to let them see their potential….if there is any.

    • Mike Heffner says:

      Cashlie – you cant teach attitude and effort. You can coach someone through it but its a choice. You either choose to have it or you don’t. A good leader doesnt allow negative attitude and poor effort to last long. Those can be cancers on a team. A good leader develops followers to their best potential. Every team needs followers. They are usually loyal as long as the leader doesn’t run them off. Leaders often make the mistake of not leading them correctly – either over or under supervising. Followers can be great at doing what needs done in a predictable way. They often times lead, but by example instead of voice. Be careful that you dont get trapped into categorizing a follower as someone that can’t or doesnt want to improve. Followers still want to grow – they just may not want to lead.

      As a sports analogy: I coach girls softball and some of my most productive players are followers. They dont take as many risks but they produce, continue to improve and provide a solid foundation for our team. My leaders are the ones that take risks and are the “voice” but my followers are my steady girls that provide that quiet “voice” that is often seen but not heard.