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Successful leadership is about ninety percent people knowledge and ten percent product knowledge. Henry Ford once said, "You can take my factories, burn up my buildings, but give me my people and I'll build the business right back again."

You can have strong people skills and not be a good leader, but you cannot be a good leader without people skills. In my thirty-plus years of leadership, I've discovered that many people in leadership positions fail to ever gain a proper understanding of the people they lead. As a result, neither they nor their people ever reach their potential.

But successful leaders are able to discern the needs of their people instinctively, then take action to meet them. The following is a list of the most common needs of people and how to meet them effectively. Though every item may not be true of the people you lead, take the time to determine what items do describe them. Then commit to take the proper action to put you and your people on the road to success.

1. People Like To Feel Special…Compliment Them
The highest compliment a person can receive is one given by his or her leader. Mark Twain said, "One compliment can keep me going for a whole month." Take the time to notice your people's work and don't hesitate to tell them when they've done a good job. Make a habit of being generous and sincere with your compliments.

2. People Look For A Better Tomorrow…Give Them Hope
Jean Kerr said, "Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have isn't permanent." In other words, when your people are having trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, remind them of the purpose of their work and help them envision what their work will accomplish. With hope our people will work harder and longer to see a task through to completion.

3. People Need To Be Understood…Listen To Them
Every leader would be wise to heed the Cherokee saying: "Listen to the whispers and you won't have to hear the screams." Don't judge what your people want to tell you before they've told you. Take time to understand their point of view and listen to their suggestions. It's the best way to ensure that they've been listening to you and it opens the door to innovative ideas for improvement.

4. People Lack Direction …Navigate For Them
Don Herald said, "Unhappiness is not knowing what we want and killing ourselves to get it." Part of your job as a leader is to help your people figure out what they're most passionate about, then help them pursue it. Sometimes that may involve a position change within your organization or even allowing a person to pursue another opportunity.

But when you understand that effectiveness comes as a result of surrounding yourself with people who love what they do, it's not difficult to let a person go who doesn't enjoy their work. Spend your best time developing and giving direction to those who are passionate about the work your organization is accomplishing.

Tom Peters said, "Techniques don't produce quality products or pick up the garbage on time; people do, people who care, people who are treated as creatively contributing adults."

Before you ask anything of your people, make sure you've taken the time to understand and meet their needs. In doing so, you will give yourself a decided edge in maintaining their continued support.

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free
monthly e-newsletter: Leadership Wired available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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