I spend most of my day teaching leadership to high school students. We have two leadership classes available: Foundational Leadership is a class focused on leading one’s self; Transformational Leadership is centered on leading others. Both are great classes that I love and am grateful for the opportunity to teach. However, the most important lesson we discuss isn’t about leadership at all.
It’s about following. I’ve discovered that people have as much trouble following as they do leading. And, often time, even more so. Afterall, we’ve been conditioned to lead, not follow. This mentality undermines the humility and service behind true leadership. There is little a leader can do that is more beneficial to their leadership impact than to follow.
Why Should We Care? Think about the best teams you’ve been on. I’m guessing the group was chalked full of team members that you trusted beyond just doing their job, valued the mission of the team above any personal goals or agenda, and were willing to uphold the standard of the group when things are the most difficult.
That sounds like a pretty good leader, like someone I would follow.
Each member of our team has something special to offer.
It’s our job to find this talent and bring it to the forefront. In order to find it, we have to know our people beyond their cubicle or locker though. We don’t gain this understanding from interviews or the typical team meetings. To bring it to the forefront, we must create an environment that allows them to showcase their talents and minimize their weaknesses.
Then, we must afford them the opportunity to lead - and us the opportunity to follow.
By following, we are empowering.
REAL TALK - Action Steps Clearly we need to be sure we are empowering the right team members in the right areas. It’s our responsibility as the leader to position our people in the roles that provides them the best chance to significantly contribute to the team. I think most leaders get this right. What most neglect is the opportunity that follows.
Champion their contribution to teammates
Share the strengths of team members within the group. Show it, talk about it, and provide a platform for them to demonstrate it. Allow them the opportunity to celebrate and support teammates. We know the strengths of each member of our team. Just provide them the opportunity to share it with the rest of the team.
Champion their contributions to leaders
Be sure your leaders are aware of the brilliance of your team members. Few things demonstrate your commitment to team members more than investing in their future. By sharing up, we allow our team to witness our desire to help team members reach their goals rather than simply accomplish ours.
Champion the team member
Follow. Guide and assist, but follow. Be sure the team knows you are not in charge and that your knowledge, skill, and talent is secondary to the team member leading. Few leaders are willing to give up this control, but if you want true ownership and buy-in from your team you must follow.
Want ownership and passion on your team? Empower your team members to lead … then follow them!
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com. We would love to know how we could help!