How to Lead Followers Who are Different from You

Image courtesy of mack2happy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of mack2happy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Leadership is about people. If we’ve led people well, they will follow us and feel good about it. They will sing our praises as a leader.

I’ve become a regular listener of actor, Alec Baldwin’s entertaining and fascinating podcast, Here’s the Thing,  (http://www.wnyc.org/shows/heresthething/) in which he interviews musicians, actors, celebrities, sports figures, authors and community activists.  Alec does a great job getting to the heart of the matter with his interviewees.

In a recent episode, Alec interviewed, Martin Horn, former New York City Commissioner of Correction and Probation.  Horn talks about what it was like to work for 7 years with Tom Ridge when he was governor of Pennsylvania.  Horn admits that they don’t agree politically on many issues, but they were able to build a great relationship in spite of those differences.

In the interview, Mr. Horn said he thinks the world of Tom Ridge and says he was the best boss a person could have.  He knew how to be a leader.

Here are some tips for leading others who are different  from us, gleaned from their experience:

Back up your people

Standing behind our staff or team members shows that we respect them as people and fellow leaders. We treat them as a valued member of our team. The fact that we support them shows that what they do matters.

Hold people accountable

When we hold them accountable it shows that we care about their performance and affirms their value to our team.

Accountability benefits the whole team because the weakest length is not allowed to stay the weakest link for long.

The entire team benefits when each person is held accountable.

Try to be the world’s best listener

We seek to understand where our team members are coming from. The only way to do that is to listen, really listen to their concerns, hurts, fears, joys and events of their lives.

Listening is hard work because we want to jump in and push our ideas and agenda.  Being willing and able to hear our people out demonstrates that we care about them.

Have good values

There is much to be said for doing the right thing.  We won’t follow people we can’t trust to do the right thing. Our integrity as leaders is on display in the decisions we make and in the ways we treat people. Character counts.

Leaders lead with integrity can be trusted to do the right thing for the organizations they lead.

Thankfully we are not all the same. The world would be boring if we were. Life is interesting and leadership is fun because we don’t all agree on everything all the time.

The secret of great leaders is knowing how to navigate the differences and still accomplish the mission of the organization.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you lead people who are different from you. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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