Follow To Lead
Like most young boys, I loved helping my dad. It didn’t really matter if he was working on a car, splitting wood, or fixing something in the house. I loved it. Of course, my role was always the same. I was the gopher. Whatever dad needed that wasn’t within reach, that’s when my services came in.
A Phillips screwdriver? I would bring three to make sure one of them was right.
More gas for the chainsaw? I would drag the can to him if I couldn’t carry it.
Flipping an electric breaker? I would close my eyes and hope I didn’t get shocked every time.
Whatever dad needed, I was willing to do.
This is where leadership starts … with following.
We all follow before we lead. Following is our introduction to serving. It’s where we find out how good it feels to help someone else. It lays the foundation for the desire to contribute to something bigger than yourself.
Why Should We Care?
Yet, as soon as we get a taste of leadership we stop talking about following and focus solely on leading. As a matter of fact, in some circles, following becomes a derogatory label.
Think about that.
The very thing that taught us the value of helping, serving, is viewed by some as a negative. A lack of motivation and purpose or purpose and direction are all used as the reason someone has gone ‘wrong’ and is ‘just’ a follower.
It’s ridiculous when you really examine it.
If excellence, performing at our highest level, is the objective, then we should all be leading and following. It’s not an either, or. It’s an AND.
Depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the team, the most effective leaders are fluid in their movement between leading and following.
A willingness to follow as the leader is also the mark of humility for a leader, an attribute that is more appealing than charisma or power. By choosing to follow, we can empower and uplift our team members without ever spending a dime or saying a word.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Striking a balance of leading and following is positive for anyone, not just leaders. There is a definite tendency in leadership to dismiss the need to continue following. Here are a few ideas to maintain the balance.
The old adage of “be a leader, not a follower” needs to be retired. We all need to lead and we all need to follow. What separates the great leaders is the ability to know when to do each.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.