Posted by: Mark Sorenson | April 25, 2009

Follow the Leader

Every summer for the past three years I have managed a sales office selling pest control. I have been the leader, manager, trainer and motivator for the team I hire each summer. I have seen firsthand how the way you motivate a team can be the difference between success and failure within that team.

The Leadership Role

For my employees, my role as their leader starts the day I hire them. Even before the summer starts, I am the leader with the vision. I am the one they follow. I am the one they see who has been there and done that. I will be the expert and they have a hope that I will care for them enough to share my knowledge with them so they can be successful. When the chips are down, I will be the one they look to for inspiration and motivation.

My first summer managing, I made two fatal mistakes (actually many more than just two) which crippled my team, and my ability to lead them.

The first mistake I will call the law of following the leader. As the leader and the manager, I made the mistake of thinking that since I was the leader and manager, I had fewer responsibilities than the rest. I used my “manager” title as justification to be busy doing the “manager” tasks. I expected my employees to do what I said, not what I did. My lack of accountability for my time spent, (or wasted) had a devastating effect on my team. I lost their respect and instead of having a team, I practically had mutiny. I was seen as the “boss” and was kept out of the loop. The more this persisted, the more frustrated I got and the more I tried to crack the whip to get everyone to perform again. But what I didn’t realize is that my employees were in fact following their leader. They were doing the same thing I was doing; not working, and they were not being accountable to me for their time spent working the same way I was not accountable to them.

So in the end I learned that the team will follow the attitude of their leader. If that leader’s attitude is bad, the team will have a bad attitude. If it is good, the team will have a good attitude. That is the law of following the leader.

Being a leader requires you to be the best person on the team. You must have double the qualities you expect your team to have. They will truly follow the tone you set and once that tone is set, it is very difficult to change. Take the time as a leader to write down the vision you have for those you lead. Then write down what you are going to do, as the leader, to make it absolutely clear to your team that you live and act the way you expect your team members to live and act.


  1. Tone at the top, my friend!

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