If you read any books on leadership, you will find one common trait used to describe successful leaders: they have the ability to influence employees to follow them

If you read any books on leadership, you will find one common trait used to describe successful leaders: They have the ability to Influence employees to follow them. And while the literature is replete with suggestions on “how” successful leaders influence employees (i.e. they listen, they share, they role model), the “why” is equally important. Fortunately, the “why’ is easy to explain: Successful leaders must be able to influence employees because they need employees to deliver positive performance.  So successful leaders are also high performance leaders. These are five ways they motivate employees.

1. High performance leaders use a “strategic perspective” to plan and act. They don’t just consider how performance impacts one person or one thing. Instead, they consider how performance impacts people, processes, practices, and procedures throughout the entire organization. They make sure employees are doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. Whether they are leading a small project or a large organization, high performance leaders make a strategic link to positive performance whenever and wherever they can.  

2. High performance leaders use the “mission, vision, and values” of their organization as guiding principles for everything they do. They never talk about performance as an isolated activity. Instead, they always explain how individual, team, and organizational performance contributes to the fulfillment of these guiding principles. They let employees know that they are working for a common purpose and a higher purpose. Sometimes this means focusing on the mission of a smaller department within the organization. At other times, this means focusing on the more broad organization mission. Whatever the case, high performance leaders find a way to connect guiding principles to positive performance.

3. High performance leaders emphasize the “mutual benefits” of performance. They do not just focus on the achievement of organizational goals. Rather, they always link the achievement of organizational goals to the achievement of individual goals. They know what is important to their organization and they know what is important to employees. As such, high performance leaders can explain how organizational achievements like increased profits or improved productivity positively impact things employees want. Similarly, high performance leaders can explain how a lack of achievement in these areas negatively impact things employees want.

4.  High performance leaders “involve employees” in setting goals, benchmarks, and objectives. They don’t just issue a set of directives and expect everyone to be committed.  Instead, they find ways to generate input from employees. Sometimes this input might mean determining WHAT goals will be pursued. At other times, it could mean determining HOW goals will be pursued.  Whenever possible, high performance leaders involve employees in some way, no matter how small.

5.  High performance leaders “reinforce performance continuously.”  They create an environment that lets employees know which behaviors lead to which results. When employees deliver positive performance or negative performance, they explain the impact on results. They also fill the organization with reminders about achievements.  These might include placing mission statements on office walls or putting progress charts in hallways. Additionally, they celebrate achievements like first steps, second steps, and final steps. When it comes to reinforcement, high performance leaders know that it’s about what they say and what they do.

The Goal Of High Performance Leaders

The goal of high performance leaders is to be successful.  And they know that in order to be successful, they must influence employees to deliver positive performance. High performance leaders succeed in this area because they do things to inspire higher levels of commitment and cooperation from employees. They don’t just assume that because they are leading, employees will follow. Try these strategies for yourself the next time you are leading a team, a project, or a company. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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