Much of my experience of growing in followership has been two-fold: adopting a right perspective–about myself, my circumstances, my leader, and my peers–and then also adopting right behaviors–in the way I communicate, the activities I engage in, and the habits I form.
I blogged recently about the core truth that we all have something to contribute (see A Necessary Contribution). The truth that we each have something unique and valuable to bring to an organization is one such right perspective that we will each benefit from adopting. But, there is also a consequent action that should accompany this right thinking.
In order to follow with excellence, it’s not enough for us to just know that we are valuable, we need to put that value into play for the benefit of others! There is a right behavior for us to adopt along with our healthy self-perspective.
I share these words in Chapter 5, “Obligations of Followership”:
The most fundamental aspect of following is simply this: to participate. By its very nature, the follower role is one that expresses our attachment to a group endeavor…. We engage in this association in order to achieve something—create profit, plan an event, win a trophy, provide humanitarian relief. For our follower role to have any meaning at all, we must begin by participating in this work…. Excellence in following begins with showing up, not just as a lukewarm body, but as a person with something to contribute—whether that’s a pair of hands, a profound insight, or a perceptive question.
Once we take on board the truth that we do indeed have something to contribute, we should then take the next step and actually contribute it! Sometimes, this may prove difficult if we have a hard time identifying what that unique, valuable, and necessary contribution might be. In the quotation above, you can see that I regard hands, insights, and questions as very valuable resources indeed! Throughout the other chapters of the book, I offer much more in terms of guidance and resources to encourage you as you identify what your individual contribution and participation might look like.
So, what do you think? Do you believe you have a necessary contribution to make? If so, what does your excellent participation look like? Are others getting to see and receive the benefits of your involvement, or is something holding you back from diving in? Is there some misconception, self-doubt, or lack of clarity that’s keeping your contribution on the edge of your organization’s pool of human resources?
If I had to summarize my encouragement to others to follow well with just a single word, it would be this: participate!
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