...We Choose to Follow”
Earlier this month, I read the title quote in a post by Laurence Barrett from my LinkedIn network. His posts always get me thinking and this particular sentence got me thinking about an important topic that routinely gets little airtime yet is extremely important in the leadership development universe. When we ask leaders if they can truly be a leader if no one follows them, the obvious answer is no. Yet the topic of followership continues to lag in the leadership discussion.
In the Leadership and Organizational Behavior class I teach in a local MBA program, we introduce the relationship between the leader, the followers, and the situation. One of the exercises we discuss is the idea of creating a course on followship and the key topics we would need to cover in such a course. After creating an exhaustive list of topics, I change the title from followership to leadership and then ask the class to identify additional topics required for effective leadership. Surprisingly, very few new topics get added. This exercise helps drive home the importance of followership relative to effective leadership.
We define followership as the attitudes, skills and behaviors that complement leadership in achievement of the team’s success. The real question is how we apply this definition to the success of the team in the context of our actual work. In our experience, both as a business leader and leadership coach, we’ve identified three key areas of followership that are most relevant, especially in the new reality of the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment we currently operate in. Let’s explore each in more detail:
Followers have more power than sometimes even they realize. (remember, without them there is no leadership). As numerous MBA classes have come to realize through the exercise mentioned earlier, to leverage that power effectively requires attitudes, skills and behaviors that are nearly identical to that of the leader. When followership and leadership align to the mission, achieving desired results will lead to sustainable success!
How does your team’s followership align with your leadership and how do you know? If you don't know, we can help!