Listening – a key step for building followership

listenHow often have you experienced bosses you worked for giving you the impression that their behaviour was not really authentic but more of a simulated role they have learned in some of their training courses. How strong was your followership to those bosses?

In the many cases I have come across such behaviour displayed by leaders, the followership was at best compliant but far away from full commitment and a high level of motivation.

So, as a leader what do you need to watch out for and work on to build or develop the followership of people working for you? Based on my experience I would put two factors at the top of the list of elements which help to foster followership.


2 factors which help foster followership


Number one is the level of trust you have in the persons and their abilities. For some people or in some cases it might be necessary to explicitly talk about trust in the interaction! Others may feel whether or not you have trust in them and in what they contribute. Of course, there’s no point to leverage trust when you have none. However, if this is the case in a particular relationship, you better talk about this lack of trust and clarify what stands in the way for each of you to achieve full trust.

The second most important factor is the respect you show for who they are. Only people who feel that they are respected and accepted by you will engage fully and be willing to work well for you. Even if you say that respect is a cardinal value for you and that you are always living up to this value, the question remains whether your practice shows your intention.

Both of these factors, respect and trust, are negatively impacted by a behaviour I observe in many organisations and with leaders for whom workload is fairly high. The most critical behaviour is the unavailability of these leaders for conversations with their team members, closely followed by the low quality of listening when their people do speak with them.


Are your team members really important to you and do you show it?


Under the assumption that people in your team are important for you to deliver results and accomplish goals, you can ask yourself two simple questions to check this out for yourself:

  • How much of my time do I have available for the people in my team to talk with me?
  • How well do I listen when people of my team talk with me? (e.g. do I try to multitask in my brain and think about other tasks I would like to do whilst being with one of my people?)

To give you an external perspective you could also ask people in your team for feedback in relation to the two aspects in the self-reflective questions mentioned just before.  Taking the feedback you received and your honest answers to these questions, how would you evaluate these in relation to your intentions?


If your intentions, your own view, and others’ perceptions are aligned, congratulations! You are doing a great job!


If they’re not aligned, maybe you want to reflect on situations where you find there is a gap between your intentions and the effect your behaviour is having. What is causing this gap? Is it related to the consequences of some of your other behaviour, operational practices or is it rooted deep in your beliefs and attitudes?

When working with leaders around such challenges the three most common themes I come across are:

  • shortfalls in self-management, prioritisation and time management
  • believing to be able to anticipate what people want to talk about
  • an attitude of knowing better than the team members

Do these resonate with you as well? Of course, by its very nature the first theme is much easier to admit than the others.

Now, here is the good news: in our Virtual Leadership Development programme 4.0 (VLD 4.0)we offer a wide variety of modules which can help you in your continuous development as a leader. And some of  these modules address precisely the points made above.

Therefore, I invite you to a conversation, exploring your needs and what we could offer as support. Perhaps selected modules of our VLD 4.0 would suit, or maybe a specifically-designed individual coaching programme will meet your exact needs. Just get in touch with me and we can work it out together.

And if you want to know more about the programme before you contact me, you can find some details here.

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