“The difference between followers and leaders is that followers need leaders to help them follow what leaders themselves are following. This relationship takes the form of a shared response-ability to a shared calling. Both find each other in a true fellowship to create the world responsibly.”
Without ‘followership’, there is no leadership. And no, it is not your team’s ‘followership’ that you need to develop for you to be a better leader. It is your own!
Lets look at this a bit further. As many contemporary leaders believe, the leader’s role is to inspire action in others towards a goal or vision. To do this, you have to get your people to follow you towards that vision. (And there are many tools and techniques that will enable you to do this.)
But what if we could know that leading is not a ‘doing’, it is a state of ‘being’? And that the state of being most required ‘to be’ a great leader is the state of being willing to follow. Then truly great leaders would start with leading themselves. In other words, they learn the crucial skill of following. ‘What a strange skill for a leader!’ I hear you cry.
There are 3 main reasons learning to follow will make you a better leader.
A leader focuses on trusting self
I know that you thought leading others was getting them to follow you because they trust you. But in truth, they cannot follow unless you trust yourself.
Bob, a senior executive client was discussing the challenge of leading his team and inspiring them to follow him. As he moaned they were not doing as he asked, I challenged him: do you do what you ask of yourself?
For example, do you go to the gym when you say you will, or complete your report when you promised it? And do you do these things all the time every time? In fact, can you trust yourself to do these things when you say you will? Bob paused significantly when I asked this and then admitted that he did not always trust himself either. I asked how he could expect others to trust him if he did not find it possible to trust himself?
A leader focuses on discipline
I am sure that this sounds a bit autocratic and directive; but unless you are into discipline, you won’t be into leading anything much.
Bob was a bit confused at this and asked: ‘how does my going to the gym when I say I will relate to others following me as their leader?’
I explained: when you are clean and clear in doing what you say you will do, you become able to approach others in the same clean, unequivocal way. As a result, your tone of your voice, body language and even your approach will be different.
This means that if you can discipline yourself, you will be able to communicate discipline and by extension, accountability to others. It is valuable to remember that the root of the word discipline is disciple; a word that also means follower. When you ‘disciple’ yourself, you will be able to inspire the disciple in others, who will follow you towards the vision.
A leader focuses on self-leading
Did you know that when you find the follower in you, your team finds an internal leader?
Bob grappled with this a bit and then challenged me to define what would happen if his team ‘followed’ him blindly. I replied that those who follow do not do so blindly. Rather, at your instigation (lead) they agree to disciple-ine themselves in the direction of the vision.
Leading then is not about directing, guiding or even focusing on others. It is about defining a vision and developing your own internal disciple(ine); before inspiring your team to lead themselves to follow you.
(c) Anne Fuller-Good