A friend of mine has a strong view of “leadership”. He places it in the same category of other over-used business terms like “innovation” and “strategy”. The particular skill that he has is that he can immediately focus on the core of any issue, deconstruct it by removing stuff that doesn’t matter and then re-assemble it in a way that makes the issue so much more simple and obvious. It is quite a skill.

On the matter of leadership he has a simple view. That is that all effective leaders have only one thing in common – FOLLOWERS. Pressed further he said that good leaders create a story and a journey that binds their team together and inspires them to get on the “company bus” to achieve something great.

This necessarily leads to the conclusion that a leader can only be considered effective if they have a legitimate group of followers aligned behind common objectives. Moreso, the followers are the ultimate judges of the efficacy of any leader. And they’re a tough and critical audience!

Whether or not you consider yourself a good leader is irrelevant. It’s not your opinion that counts. What counts is the opinion of the people that you are leading and whether they have bought into you and your vision.

Many so-called leaders delude themselves on this matter. Some are terrible at “managing-down”. Why? Because they haven’t figured out the big difference between leading and “bossing”. Others are not insightful enough to understand that self-interest is rarely a good ingredient to attract followers. Even more mistakenly confuse direct reports (and other staff) with followers. They’re not the same thing.

Make no mistake leadership is tough. But the measurement of the effectiveness of any leader is pretty simple. Just ask how many followers they have and whether they have managed to align everyone’s interests behind common objectives and created a culture of inclusiveness and transparency. Better still ask their followers what they think.

Like I said the measurement of leadership is simple. The hard part is getting a high score….

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