The Intangible ABCs of a Leader People Love to Follow

Published October 22, 2018


Leading OthersSupervising People

When I worked in the hotel industry almost 20 years ago, I worked for a boss I did not love following. He hardly ever left his office. He was gruff and often seemed irritated. He was nowhere to be found when things got busy, stressful and chaotic. I dreaded going into work because I knew, before stepping in the door each day, that I was on my own to handle whatever came my way.

The truth is, on paper, the guy would have appeared to be a great leader. He had the background and decades of experience to do the job. He even had vision for where he wanted to see us go as an organization. He provided training for us and we always had the physical resources we need to do our jobs. He was professional and knew a lot about the industry. We were successful in our operations.

Leadership is never a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. Every person we lead is different.

But he lacked something that could have led to an even higher level of success for us all.  He lacked something that we don’t see in a lot of leadership articles. He was lacking the intangibles that a leader must possess if he/she wants to be a leader people love to follow.


These intangibles are the things that separate good leaders from great leaders.

So, I’ve come up with my top three. It’s not meant to be exhaustive, but I do think that if every leader has these intangibles, they will be well on their way to growing into a leader people love to follow.


1) Approach people as individuals.

Leadership is never a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. Every person we lead is different. They have different experiences, different cultures, different expectations, different skills, abilities, training—just to name a few. It’s one of the complexities of leadership. And, if we approach people as if they’re all wired the same, we miss out on the opportunity to help them reach their potential. It is through their individuality that we can uncover their strengths and leverage them for success.


2) Be a good listener.

It is tempting, in leadership, to think that we know the best way to get from point A to point B. After all, we do have all the experience, right? Maybe, but maybe not. Listening to those we lead is an intangible that more leaders need to discover. Listening communicates to those we lead that they are important. Listening helps to foster open communication and more diverse ideas. Listening is the key to unlocking a more loyal, creative and invested follower.


3) Consider life outside of work.

This one is tough. There is a mantra in business that goes something like this: Work is work and home is home–don’t mix the two. It’s a great theory, but it very rarely ever plays out that way. Why? Because work affects my home life and my home life affects my work. Leaders who try to ignore the fact that the people on their team have a life outside of work are missing an opportunity to value their team members deeply. Being aware and considerate of a person’s life outside of work will lead to greater productivity, deeper loyalty and more commitment to their work.


Listening to those we lead is an intangible that more leaders need to discover.

Which of these comes the most naturally to you? Which one needs improvement? Keep leading with vision and results, but don’t let the intangibles disappear.

The more you commit to these ABC’s, the more your team members will feel valued and the more they’ll love to follow you!

About the Author
Tim Parsons serves as lead pastor at The Journey Church outside Indianapolis, a host site for the GLS. His passion is to help people lead better—at work and at home.

Tim Parsons

Lead Pastor

The Journey Church (Indianapolis, IN)

Tim Parsons serves as lead pastor at The Journey Church outside Indianapolis. With a passion to help people lead better at work and at home, his church has been a longtime partner with us as a Premier Host for The Global Leadership Summit. He is the co-author of the new devotional for men, Equipping the Warrior and author of the soon to be released 40-day devotional on spiritual health, The Journey. You can  connect with Tim at