"Born to lead" is nonsense. Many things shaped that person in order for them to achieve credibility with others. Of course, we can become a "leader" as part of our company designated hierarchy. We sit somewhere in an organizational chart above others, with various reporting lines elevating us above the hoi polloi. We know many people with that august title of "leader", who we would never willingly follow in a million years – pompous, tiresome, incompetent jerks!
Can we become someone who others will follow when all the paraphernalia of leadership pomp and circumstance has been stripped away? At work the definition of a leader is fairly narrow: they manage processes and build people. There is leadership more broadly embraced outside of work – parent groups, hobbies, volunteer organisations. Often these non-work related positions become the sordid playgrounds of amateur politicians. People who cannot command respect at work, but who have the spare time and energy to manipulate organisations. They seize power and laud it over others. The rest of us tolerate their maniacal fantasies, because we are too busy working to contest with them.
How do we become a better leader, whom others willingly wish to follow? Even being the obvious best at something isn’t enough to get others to want to follow you. They may defer to our technical excellence and superior knowledge, but they remain skeptical observers.
The starting point is critical. If your desire for leadership is driven by personal aggrandisement and ego, where all good things must flow to you, this force of will factor is not attractive. Good leadership is differentiated by the followers desire to want to follow, when there is no coercion, structure or impetus to do so. We gravitate to these leaders because of how they make us feel.
Effective leaders are good with people. There are some key principles they embody, which make us like and trust them. This is not artful manipulation, where they fake these principles in a cunning way. That approach exists and will ultimately be revealed as hypocrisy. What we are talking about here is having correct kokorogamae (心構え) - true intentions.
Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
We are often so wrapped up in our selfishness, we become the center of our world and want others to serve us. The better leader talks about our interests in a way that fosters close alignment and agreement.
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
Bossy people often love to brag. Instead, build the trust by focusing your conversation on them not you. As you stop dominating and start listening, you uncover areas of shared desires, values, interests and experiences which are magnetic in their properties and bind us more closely together.
Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely
"Sincerely" – not fake praise or manipulation. Having listened to them, we discover their abilities, capacities and strengths. By linking those excellent attributes to a shared bigger picture, we help others to feel part of something worthwhile.
Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
Often we are egocentric - it always about me, me, me. Having listened, we uncover the context behind their beliefs and arrive at a greater appreciation for their views and positions. We can more easily get on each other’s wavelengths. When this happens, we become more mutually simpatico, supportive and powerfully bonded.
Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
The inclusive, humble promotion of self-discovery unleashes powerful forces that encapsulates our shared direction. We become the catalyst for their self-belief. We all want to be around people who make us feel good about our better selves and with whom we share common goals.
People will willingly follow us when we apply these principles. We must sincerely switch from a "me" focus to an "our" focus. Change our approach and we change our results.