We’ve come to that peculiar time of the year…when we think about next year. Although there’s nothing magical about having to hang up a new calendar, the change from one year to the next always seems to bring an incentive for change, for new commitment. All those good ideas we’ve had along the way for some reason can’t be implemented immediately; they always have to wait until January 1st…and then usually fizzle out by the 15th.
When I’m asked to summarize my thoughts on excellent followership, I often boil it down to one simple commitment: contribute something.
This motto surfaces itself regularly in my own life, both in my leadership and in my followership. I encourage my subordinates to share their thoughts, opinions, expertise, and questions. And when I’m given an invitation to give input, I rarely let it go unanswered. Even if it’s an issue that I’m not strongly passionate about, perhaps my (relatively unbiased?) perspective may bring forth a question or fact worthy of consideration.
At times, I’m fairly certain that this approach, this commitment to engage, has not always been in the group’s best interest.
I recall being asked to participate in a panel discussion at a leadership development forum. There were something like a dozen of us on the panel, and I resolved that I would add my voice to every question asked.
I am certain that not every word that came out of my mouth was a pearl of wisdom.
I can imagine that some people were eventually rolling their eyes when they saw the mic being passed down to me once more. (This guy, again?)
And at the same time, I’m confident that some of what I offered was useful.
I know myself well enough to say that I can easily struggle to find my voice in a room. Having a leadership title does help me at times, but I can naturally take the back seat in a conversation, well aware of my youth (?), the limitations of my own experience, and dubious about the likelihood of me contributing anything that everybody doesn’t already know.
And so, I resolved to make an effort, to engage, to participate, to find my voice and to speak…although that meant occasionally mis-stepping, or even overstepping.
Of course, at the same time, we can’t forget to maintain a commitment to appropriate postures of respect, honor, submission, humility, ourselves being learners and valuing our association with the group…as opposed to ensuring that everyone accepts our obvious wisdom and expertise, or that we get to offer the final word.
We may each face new opportunities in our followership in the new year, but one of the guiding principles remains the same. Contribute. And figure out how you can place yourself, in circumstances and relationships, in order for you to do that appropriately and effectively…for your own satisfaction and for the betterment of the group.
And not just during the first two weeks of January, but for the rest of your year and engagements to come.
All the best in your excellent followership throughout 2020!
For encouragement and guidance in understanding and applying yourself to following and leading with excellence and helping others to do the same, see:
Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture (by Allen Hamlin Jr; Feb 2016), and A Discussion Guide for Teams & Small Groups (Dec 2017) —