If You Want People to Follow You

I was impressed by Dan Pallotta’s post “If You Want People to Actually Read What You Write” for Harvard Business Review. Dan outlines several tips to get your message across, from “Shorten your communication” to “Don’t give people whiplash.”

Much of Dan’s advice applies to leadership, too. Read Dan’s tips as they apply to writing, then see how I applied them to leadership:

  • Blur your eyes (Dan’s tip). Ask if your vision for the organization is still clear to your associates, and of real value to your customers (my tip).
  • Shorten your communication. As a leader, your call to action must be clear. There’s commanding brevity to “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”
  • Clean up messes. Don’t let conflicts linger. Acknowledge and resolve disputes, repair damaged relationships, or cut ties promptly and courteously when necessary.
  • Don’t get fancy. Focus on your core values, a worthy mission that provides value, and a clear and simple strategy. Greed does not warrant emulation. Complexity does not equal sophistication.
  • Break some rules. Dare to defy convention. Create markets where markets should not exist. Re-imagine life as we know it to create a product we don’t know we need (eg., Apple’s iPod and iTunes). This is too much fun to be called work.
  • If you don’t know what the rules are, be careful. Err on the side of diligence, responsibility and accountability. Accept a duty of caring first and foremost for others and for the planet. (If that sentence prompts your cynicism, you are being anachronistic; yet, if you are thoughtful, you still can change.)
  • Learn to love white space. Don’t try to fight your way into a crowded market – open a new market. As ice hockey star Wayne Gretzky said, “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it’s been.”
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Inspire your team with a vision of where you want to go – a vision of possibilities! Find or create an image that embodies that future. Give a copy to each team member and invite them to join you in creating that future.
  • Don’t give people whiplash. When the winds change, stay the course and tune the rigging. Be true to your vision. Trust your intuition. Before a leader can lead, she must know where she’s going. Evoke confidence by showing you know the way.

Irrespective of the leader’s humility or vanity, leadership summons followership. What lessons would you add to this list?

(Many thanks to Dan Pallotta for inspiring this post.)