Follow My Lead
A quick Google search on the two topics sets this discussion up perfectly. Searching for books on “leadership” approximately 1.3 million results are found. A search for books on “followers” produces only 300 million. That’s about one fourth of the leadership results.
It’s interesting because there is no leadership without people to lead. And, it seems, most leaders are leading numerous people, not just one. So, why such a difference in the interest of leading and following? Why are there fewer books on being a good follower as compared to a good leader? Why are people so much less interested in following than leading?
Good questions because if we want to lead, we need to know how to follow.
As a matter of fact, we can’t truly lead if we can’t, or aren’t willing to, follow.
Followers are first and foremost, humble. They realize they need help and are willing to accept whatever role is necessary to accomplish the goal. They care more about the team accomplishing their goal than about who gets the credit. And, perhaps most importantly, they care deeply about the mission of the team. So much so that they want to serve the most in areas of their strengths and allow others to do the same.
Kind of sounds like the mindset a leader should have, don’t you think?
Why Should We Care?
Leadership has been glorified over the years in part due to the connection with corporate positions such as president and CEO. At many companies these people are viewed as the ultimate leaders within that organization. And, while that may be true, the idea that they are always leading and never following couldn’t be further from the truth. If they’re good anyway.
Leading and following are inseparable.
You can’t lead without followers but you also can’t lead without following. The reason is very simple. Both require the exact same critical behavior. The higher it is, the better we are at both. We can’t be excellent in either facet without it.
The best leaders demonstrate this humility by empowering those they lead through autonomy within their role. They allow their people to lead within their area of expertise and while they become the avid follower doing whatever they can to help. Excellent leaders don’t micromanage. They guide and support. They serve and empower.
Think of it like building a house. A great building manager is going to hire someone to frame the house, someone to pour the foundation, someone to roof it, someone to do the plumbing, someone to paint it … while the building manager is the leader of the project he must follow the advice and lead of each individual contractor within the project.
His ability to be a great follower within each piece of the project will ultimately determine the success of the build. If he were to try to lead in all aspects of building the house, the job would be inefficient and suffer greatly from the missing care and investment of each individual contractor.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
We like to think that as leaders, we only lead but it’s just not true. If we are unable, or unwilling, to follow then we are compromising our potential. Here are a few ideas to be sure you are not only leading but also following.
Leadership is about bringing out the best in our teams. To think that avenue always runs through us is arrogant and ignorant. We need both the courage to lead and the humility to follow.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.