It’s often a dirty word. From a debasing perspective on personal worth or identity, to deviant sexual practices, there’s a lot of baggage attached to the word “submission.”
And yet, I think it’s vital that we do the hard work to overcome these skewed views and to invest the notion of submitting with all the positivity and encouragement that we possibly can.
Off-the-cuff definitions of submission usually include sentiments of yielding to someone else, someone who has greater power; setting aside your will or withholding your strength in the face of another’s dominance or authority.
In short, submission usually has the sense of holding back. But I think it’s far more helpful to think of it as something given.
Perhaps one of the most common Internet button clicks is “Submit.” You fill out a form or an application and complete the process by affirming your readiness to send your data along, to give something to someone else.
And it’s usually a relief to get the reply message: Submission Successful. Or, Submission Received. You gave, and we got it.
I recently wrote a post on A Follower’s Rewarding Words; the banner image for that post is the same as for this one, and is taken from the heading of Chapter 17 of Embracing Followership. It’s in Part 4 of the book, which explores various facets of our followership in relationship with our leader. And the three elements in Chapter 17 make an interesting trio.
Whereas influence, submission, and reward are often thought of as things followers should expect to accept—receive our leader’s influence, submit to superiors, get rewards from benefactors and patrons—for the excellent follower, I believe all three of these elements are also things that we should expect to give, spheres of engagement within which we have something to offer.
Influence, submission, and reward are all two-way streets, each of which connects leaders and followers together and enhances the dynamic of relationship and collaboration.
When it comes to submission, there are times when we will need to let go of insisting on our own ways; the notion of association (Chapter 20), of affiliating ourselves with a larger collection of humanity, will entail aligning part of our identity and behavior to the group. This is the idea of submitting ourselves, and is usually where thoughts on submission cease.
But the other aspect is the submission of what one has: the offering of our skills, thoughts, time, etc. to the organization, making them available so that they can be considered for use. Just like in submitting an article to a professional journal, it may or may not be accepted for publication, it’s likely that it will be edited, and it may even be flatly rejected, but if we never put it out there, we miss important opportunities for participation, influence, and contribution. We are putting forth something that we believe may be useful, while acknowledging that someone else might get to decide whether and how it’s utilized.
For me, this kind of submission is essential for our excellent followership. If you take a look at the index to Embracing Followership, you’ll see that submission is one of the key threads that makes its appearance throughout the exploration of following well.
So, how’s your perspective on the notion of submission? Equally important, how does your leader and your organization view the two-way streets of influence, submission, and reward? Are you participating in both the receiving and the giving activities in each of these facets of your leader-follower dynamic?
Submission Offered. Submission Received. Submission Successful.
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) —
along with our variety of free downloadable resources and the index of other posts on this site.