How to Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow

How to be a mensch

This week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Nashville IdeaMensch event, as part of their 48-state #IM48 tour. And while I was told to keep things casual and not prepare a presentation, I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to say.

The first thing I wanted to do was define what exactly the word “mensch” embodied. This is how Guy Kawasaki defines it:

“A mensch is someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.”

Whether we care to admit it, we all want to be the kind of person others want to follow. So the question then, of course, is how does one become follow-worthy?

Brenda Martinuzzi wrote a book titled, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow – in which she summarizes beautifully 12 ways on how to be a mensch:

1. Give people gifts other than those that you buy.

A second chance. A reason to care. Extra effort. Permission to fail. Resources to learn. Support. Advice. Comfort. Motivation. These are the gifts leaders give. These are the gifts that have the most value as you work on building your empire.

2. Become a talent hunter.

Appreciate the talent that exists around you. The world his a lot bigger than you think – Don’t be held back by the fear of competition – rather – embrace and learn from those who are doing incredible things – and find ways to collaborate. As Kawasaki puts it: “Genuinely acknowledging others is high octane fuel for the soul.”

3. Share ideas and information that can enrich.

We’re inherently knowledge and content hoarders. But leaders, mensch’s, are those who share their knowledge with their community. Enriching the lives of others will only in turn bring out the best in you.

4. Spend more time in the “beginner’s mind.”

It’s the idea that we must always open ourselves to continual learning and ever stifle ourselves from learning something new. Ask questions. Allow yourself to wonder – your mind to wander. If perfection DOES exist (which I don’t believe it does) it can only be founded through trying, challenging, and doing.

5. Don’t tell people what they can’t do.

Nothing is unrealistic. Anything is possible. I wrote about this recently – I preach it regularly – and I’m a firm believe in it’s validity. Successful entrepreneurs, successful people, see opportunity where most see obstacles.

6. Minimize the space you take up.

Be it physical space, or mental, the more “stuff” that exists in our life, the more crowded, unorganized, and stressful things will be. Clear out the clutter and focus on what matters most.

7. Become a relationship anthropologist.

Kawasaki cites the difference between conversation and discussion – whereas discussion involves issues of right vs. wrong, conversation allows and encourages exploration and discovery. Become a strong listener. Let others share their ideas. Genuinely give a damn.

8. Be happy for others.

Have you ever felt like you’ve done a lot and STILL can’t keep up with everyone else’s awesome-ness? (Guilty) – Don’t get hung up on the rat race of life – everything is relative and there is always someone better than you. Instead, focus on supporting others in their successes – I guarantee it’s the best way to build a strong community and network who will be there to reciprocate that support when you need it most.

9. Get rid of grudges.

The most toxic thing you can do is to hold onto a grudge. One of the greatest qualities of any great leader is their ability not to forget, but to forgive. Remember that everyone is human – and that one of the greatest gifts you can give is a second chance.

10. Help others caress the rainbow.

Hope is one of our greatest motivators. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Inspire hopefulness in not only those around you, but in yourself. If anything is possible (and I believe it is) then there is always, always hope.

11. Make people feel better about themselves.

One of the things I’ve been learning as I grow into my role as an entrepreneur and leader of a team is in the beauty of positive reinforcement. It is without a doubt one of the best motivators. People deserve to be recognized for the good they’re doing – and in a society focused so heavily on the negative, reinforcing the positive is something we all should make much more of an effort to do.

12. View promises as unpaid debt.

How do you become the kind of person others want to follow? By being a person that people trust. Promises are meant to be upheld. Don’t make ones you can’t keep. That may mean saying “no” when it’d be easier to say yes. But by focusing on what matters, by focusing on following through with that you say you will, you’ll become a reliable, trusted, admired leader. A mensch.

What would you add to this list? What are other qualities of you attribute to strong leadership and menschdom? 

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Eugene Izzard August 30, 2012 at 11:26 pm

I think gratitude and humility are two important qualities in the best leaders.

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Clare September 1, 2012 at 10:45 am

Love this post, especially, “view promises as unpaid debt.” So important.

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RAHUL PUJARI September 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm

+ A leader should motivate there team even for their small victories.
+A leader should build a good rapport with his/her team.

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Shandra September 5, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Love this! I`ve read it a couple of times and leave it up on my browser so I can glance at it and remind myself of some of these points. Good stuff.

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