How Does Your Leader Make You Feel?

by Andy Wood on December 12, 2011

in Enlarging Your Capacity, Five LV Laws, Leadership, Life Currency, Love, LV Cycle, Principle of Increase

Okay I need your feedback.  Now.  Humor me, it’s easy.  Scroll down to the comments section. Or click on the article title if you’re reading this on the feed or email, then scroll down to comments.

When you get there, give me your first response to this question.

Think of someone who is in a leadership position over your life – work, church, nonprofit, political.  How does that leader most often make you feel?

One word answers are fine.  Diatribes are fine.  Rants are fine.  Gushing is allowed, too.  First names are OK.  Give your answer,  then click “submit” and come back to the top.

I’ll wait right here.

(This is me waiting.)

Okay.  Back?  Let’s talk.

Regardless of whether leaders are the “get-it-done,” task-oriented type or the “we-love-each-other,” relationship-oriented type, one of the things that matters most to their leadership success is credibility.  A credible leader is somebody that others would willingly follow.

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have been writing about that for 30 years, based on their research.  One of the things they have discovered is that there is a direct connection between a leader’s credibility and how they make people feel.

And just how do credible leaders make people feel? Our research of over a thousand case studies shows 10 descriptors used most often:

  • Valued
  • Motivated
  • Enthusiastic
  • Challenged
  • Inspired
  • Capable
  • Supported
  • Powerful
  • Respected
  • Proud.

Think through your own experiences with both really good and really poor leaders.  Would you say you felt some or all of those things with the good ones?  Is it a safe assumption that if you had someone in authority who made you feel otherwise, you wouldn’t willingly follow them?

Now.  Put on your leader’s cap (or parent cap) and start with the obvious question:  How do you make your constituents feel? More importantly, regardless of the honest answers to that question, What can you do to build credibility by influencing the trust of those you lead? Here are four places to start:

1.  Work on congruence.

Did you ever have a boss who said all the right things but made you feel all creepy or insecure anyway?  Doubtless, one of the things missing was congruence between words and actions.  Or between verbal and nonverbal communication.  If you’re in leadership or aspire to be, remember – your words are only influential to the degree that they line up with your nonverbal communication or your actions.  And given the choice, people will believe your actions and nonverbal communication every time.

In the words of that great leadership guru, The Fonz, when he was teaching Richie Cunningham how to intimidate, “Just once you had to have hit somebody.”

2.  Think ahead.

In some cases way ahead.  It’s the number one howl of people against bad leaders:  What were they THINKING?  And in many cases the answer is, they weren’t.

Is this vision?  Partly.  But vision without a plan or careful consideration of the consequences is vaporware.  The more clearly you can see into the future and act prepared for it when you get there, the more you can convince people to follow you as you approach it.

3.  Serve the needs of your constituents.

The hardest lesson I have ever learned about motivating people is that the sincerity of my motives or the clarity of my vision is never enough.  People may respond to your call to mobilize, but they won’t necessarily respond to your motives for doing so.  Both consciously and unconsciously, people respond to the direction of a leader for reasons that serve them, not the leader.

Does that make them selfish?  No.  Just human.  And if your leadership doesn’t make them feel supported or competent or respected or needed, don’t be surprised by their lukewarm response.

4.  Pursue and reward lifelong learning and excellence.

In the circles and boxes I move in, the idea of self-improvement produces four kinds of flawed responses.

  • Some people get on a theological high-horse about all that’s wrong with the idea of self-improvement, then go back to their hours of study and work to improve themselves.
  • Some people are too busy climbing to the top of their hill to improve their ability to scale mountains.  After all, they have their diploma or degree – isn’t that enough?
  • Some people get all dreamy-eyed and can’t wait to get to that next seminar or workshop, but have no strategy for implementing all those great ideas.
  • Some people spend an inordinate amount of time ignoring their genius and working on their weaknesses.

Here’s a thought.  Become a lifelong student of the things that you are already considered an expert at, and lead your organization to do the same.  Work to make your team excellent, and yes, that means spending money for training if necessary.  Learn!  Grow!  Yesterday’s genius is only ordinary today; tomorrow it’s irrelevant.


Keep a list of those ten feelings visible somewhere at all times.  Ask yourself and others continually, “What can I do to generate that kind of response in the people I lead?”

And remember – regardless of what your leadership picture looks like today, tomorrow you have the privilege and responsibility of rewriting it.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason December 12, 2011 at 7:59 am

Like an outsider. Like I don’t fit in.

Chris December 12, 2011 at 8:01 am

He makes me feel important and comfortable. I feel like he’s there for counsel when I need it, but also that he trusts me and even gives me space to learn and grow when I make mistakes. AND that feels good because this is my first ministry position and he’s more than twice my age.

Jamie December 12, 2011 at 8:06 am

Mixed. If I do good, I feel like a million dollars. If I do something other than what he thinks I should be doing, he terrifies me.

Rick December 12, 2011 at 8:07 am

Fun. Like we’re having the time of our lives.

Kevin December 12, 2011 at 8:16 am


Fran December 12, 2011 at 8:24 am


Adrienne December 12, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Like a child~

Charlotte December 13, 2011 at 10:29 am

Cherished and valued.

Lauren Oliver December 17, 2011 at 9:43 am


Gabe Gasporra December 19, 2011 at 1:42 am


Penne June 1, 2013 at 9:33 pm

He makes me feel like QUITTING
That is the problem.

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