March 27, 2013
News & Opinion: Thinker in Residence: Erika Andersen, author of Leading So People Will Follow
Erika is the founding partner of Proteus International, a consulting and training firm that focuses on leader readiness. She serves as coach and advisor to the senior executives of such companies as GE, Time Warner Cable, TJX, NBC Universal and Union Square Hospitality Group. You can keep up with Erika on her blog (erikaandersen.com), at Forbes (blogs.forbes.com/erikaandersen/), and on Twitter (@erikaandersen).
In an informal Q&A with Erika from last year, she explained the curiosity that drives her work:
“It would be fair to say that everything I’ve created or co-created in my business, and certainly all three of my books, is nothing more or less than extended efforts to answer these questions: “How does this work?” and “How can we make it work better?” I get tremendous satisfaction from being able to crack the code on some aspect of human behavior or organizational function, and then give people practical guidance and support for improvement.”
Let's look a little more closely at how she addresses those questions while exploring leadership in her newest book, Leading So People Will Follow.
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 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 readers out on a journey of their 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!
Further explore Erika Andersen's leadership philosophy with these articles written in her own words:
In Leading--Now and Always (via erikaandersen.com), Andersen posits that "good leaders are going to become increasingly important as everything in business gets flatter, faster, more disrupted" and presents the key qualities--Far-sighted, Passionate, Courageous, Wise, Generous, and Trustworthy--that leaders need to increase their effectiveness.
In Are Leaders Born or Made? (via Forbes.com), Andersen asserts that any leader, born or made, who want to become a great leader must first become self-aware. To do this takes the development and practice of three key abilities: Become a Fair Witness; Invite Feedback; Listen.
Check in with us tomorrow as we continue our Thinker in Residence series on Erika Andersen with a Q&A interview that focuses on strategy.
About Sally Haldorson
Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.