Five Leadership Resolutions for Your Followers

Sam Rainer

January 9, 2012

New Year’s resolutions are often self-centered; it’s understandable. Successful people often reflect on who they are. They try to be more self-aware. They desire to develop themselves. So, good leaders often make resolutions involving individual goals, desires and objectives. Many leaders have resolve — the determination to see a goal and achieve it.

Too often these goals involve what individual leaders can do on their own. By the nature of their roles, however, leaders have people around them – teams, subordinates and followers – who are necessary components of success.

Allow me to challenge you to make resolutions this year with followers in mind. Here are five areas to consider in making specific leadership resolutions this year that benefit your followers.

Serve first. Everyone in an organization, from the top to the bottom serves the mission. As a leader you cannot serve the mission without also serving others. The best leaders are passionate about a mission, and they are willing to serve others who join them on that mission.

These leaders realize organizational goals and individual goals cannot be attained with an attitude of “Me first.” Leaders who show the way by serving others (as opposed to self-serving) help create a culture of sacrifice to a mission. Resolve this year to serve the mission by serving others.

Simplify work. Many people look for ways to simplify their lives this time of year. But the mantra to simplify lasts about a month before the complexities of life sneak in by Groundhog Day. Then an endless string of complex days continue until the following year’s resolution. One of the best gifts a leader can give followers is simplicity. Complexity may dominate your followers’ lives in every way, but you can grant them simplicity in the one area in which you have control. Managers who simplify work for their subordinates often create more work for themselves. Resolve this year to simplify for your followers, even if it means more complexity for you.

Release problems. Some problems are unsolvable. This creates a dilemma for leaders who have an innate desire to fix everything. Idealistic leaders will often present good solutions to the wrong problems.

Sometimes the “best” solution will not work. In certain cases, followers may never grasp the best solution. Let it go. Leaders serve people, not ideals. Resolve this year to release your followers from the burden of idealistic solutions to unsolvable problems.

Yield preferences. Most followers have a keen radar for the personal preferences of a leader, especially when these preferences are spun as vision. Leaders have positional authority over followers, and those in charge have more opportunities to voice opinions and vocalize what they like.

The best leaders find ways to create a collective vision with input from a variety of followers. They do not champion their preferences as the vision for all. Resolve this year to yield your personal preferences and build a collective vision from a variety of followers.

Recognize pride. Humility is the most difficult leadership trait to see in ourselves. The opposite of humility, pride is the most destructive leadership predisposition. Great leaders never stop fighting the battle to recognize pride and remain humble. It’s the quintessential leadership struggle. We stand on a sliding scale somewhere between healthy humility and unhealthy pride.

Even at our best, determining where we are on this scale is tough. We rarely recognize our pride until it’s too late. Followers often see it long before leaders become self-aware of arrogance. Great leaders appoint accountability partners at all levels of the organization to call attention to potential problems originated in pride. Resolve this year to put measures in place to recognize prideful tendencies and give key followers permission to call out problems associated with your pride.

Leadership is a gift from followers. Graciously accept this gift by resolving to serve followers by putting them first. Make 2012 the year of your followers.

[This post was originally published at Church Executive.]

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