Leading So People Will Follow by Erika Andersen, Jossey-Bass, 224 Pages, $26.95, Hardcover, October 2012, ISBN 9781118379875
Call it what you will: “Buy-in,” “Loyalty,” or “Enthusiasm.” Use whatever metaphor for the phenomenon you like—maybe “Everyone’s onboard” and “rowing the oars together”—but the simple reality is that every organization needs leaders, and leaders need followers. It’s how business gets done.
There is a lot of mythology surrounding effective leaders, but one need not be a “natural born leader” to inspire people. In her new book, Leading So People Will Follow, leadership coach and acclaimed business author Erika Andersen lays out “six leadership characteristics that inspire followers to fully support their leaders,” making the qualities that define great leaders accessible to all.
As in her previous two books, Growing Great Employees and Being Strategic, Andersen employs metaphor to illustrate her ideas. In this book, she spins readers a “folktale” of a soon-to-be prince and the princess he rescues. Using this “hero’s journey” as a device to illustrate the behaviors of “the acknowledged leader” (being Far-sighted, Passionate, Courageous, Wise, Generous, and Trustworthy) she sets out on a journey of her own to “help you find your own happily ever after as a truly accepted, fully ‘followable’ leader.”
While each chapter includes insight from Andersen’s own experience as a leadership consultant, as well as examples of real-life successful leaders, she understands that myths as metaphor have been utilized to instruct behavior since the dawn of time, and that we as contemporary business people are not immune to the effectiveness of a good story.
For example, Andersen begins Chapter 5, “Courage,” by furthering the “boy-saves-princess” tale she has been unraveling episodically since her Introduction. Here we find the “King-in-training” being pitched a rather grand and grave idea. Agree to be shrunken by fairy dust to become “smaller than an almond” in order to be shot out of a blow-dart gun and surmount the treacherous mountains that stand between him and the princess. Anderson parallels this episode with the courageous decision-making of John McDermott, the head of Global Sales and Marketing for Rockwell Automation, emphasizing that courage isn’t always physical, and can often mean “doing things that we simply don’t want to do” to benefit of a larger cause. The lesson here is that, when people watch their leaders act courageously—in their defense, for their benefit—they open up, begin to trust their leaders, and emulate that courageousness.
I have the good fortune of knowing Erika Andersen, and can tell that all of the qualities you find in the book are also in the woman. And I can confidently tell you that her new book, Leading So People Will Follow, is as engaging—and yes, as “followable”—as she herself is. So grab a copy, grab an oar, and get onboard!