Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

As an American living in the UK for the last 6 years, I have ample opportunity to appreciate that—despite shared history and plentiful similarities—our two cultures are clearly distinct. The truth of us being “two peoples separated by a common language” is readily apparent, but there are many other stereotypes that characterize us as undeniably different in posture and perspective.

The British have an incredible comfort with queueing (waiting in line). It’s said that even if no one else is around, a lone Brit will still manage to form a queue! “Queue jumping” (cutting in line) is a major cultural faux pas, which draws uncharacteristically audible tuts of disapproval from mainstream cultural adherents.

On the other hand, Americans are not generally known as patient people. Instant results and responses, fast-paced lives, demanding words, action-oriented, impulsive, hot-heads…waiting on line is not generally high on any American’s list of preferred ways of handling a situation.

Although I don’t think that the British comfort with queueing is a testimony to some sort of natural virtue of patience, this point of divergence does highlight a perspective that appears across many cultures, encapsulated in the dictum “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Continue reading “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way”

Important Or Accessible? Why Not Both/And

I enjoy watching political dramas from time to time (The West Wing, Madam Secretary) and have made an observation: the people that are the most important tend to be the least accessible. Continue reading “Important Or Accessible? Why Not Both/And”

Leadership is Relationship

Getting to the essence, the definition of ‘leadership’, is perhaps the Holy Grail of modern business and management literature. Everyone seems interested in what the key is, what the core is, what aspect–when given the right amount of investment and expertise–will unlock leadership success. Continue reading “Leadership is Relationship”

Who are the Change Agents?

Being a follower must be the easiest role in the world.

By many definitions, it’s leaders who are visionaries, who are burdened with a grand sense of where we need to go and how we need to get there. It’s also leaders who are the agents of change, the ones who bring about progress, improvement, achievement, and revolution.

If that’s true, then as a follower, there’s a fairly simple question: what’s left for me to do? Continue reading “Who are the Change Agents?”

Leadership Ltd. Inc.

Leadership is a daunting enterprise.  Challenges to leading effectively come from many avenues, and both internal and external factors must be addressed in order to create an ideal environment for both leaders and followers to contribute their very best. Continue reading “Leadership Ltd. Inc.”

How do you promote a clone?

I’m a fan of the Star Wars saga; as a boy who grew up in the 1980’s, I could hardly escape it.

While I will always treasure the original trilogy for the quality of their storytelling and special effects, I do appreciate the more recent films for the additional backdrop they create for this grand space opera.

Episode II, which was released in 2002 and entitled “Attack of the Clones”, has stirred up in me some recent thinking about followership. (And also taken me back to some of my original inspiration in considering followership: the rodents known as lemmings.)

In the film, a genetically engineered army is created. What caught my attention is that this army, composed entirely of soldiers cloned from a single original, consists of a wide variety of units and ranks. There are pilots and artillery specialists, tank drivers and special forces commandos. And there are captains and cannon fodder.

It made me ask the question, “How do you promote a clone?” Continue reading “How do you promote a clone?”

At Our Best When We’re Out of Sync

My wife and I are currently expecting the birth of our first child. As a result, we’re taking more walks than usual, in order to encourage our little one to make her arrival (see my video on the author page). We enjoy walking while holding hands, and my wife has made a keen observation: it’s most comfortable for us to walk together when we’re exactly out of step with one another. Continue reading “At Our Best When We’re Out of Sync”

Sheep & Sheepdogs

Given the option of being labeled a sheep or a sheepdog, which would you rather be?

Being called a sheep is perhaps the most common negative image of followership–often intended to portray mindlessness, weakness, simplicity.

Who wouldn’t rather be a powerful and productive sheepdog? Continue reading “Sheep & Sheepdogs”

Followership Encouragement

Honk! Honk! Honk!

I learned recently from a friend that geese in flight–in their famous “flying V” formation–honk almost continuously for a very definite purpose: encouragement & cooperation. Continue reading “Followership Encouragement”

“We follow to find out.”

In the current theatrical release of the film Risen, a Roman soldier asks the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth—after His death and the discovery of the empty tomb—if the answer to what’s going on lies to the north, in Galilee.

Peter, the de facto spokesman for the disciples, replies, “We are followers. We follow to find out.”

Having studied a number of historical examples of followership (including various biblical figures), there is a subtle profundity in Peter’s response. Continue reading ““We follow to find out.””

Humility or Unity: Which Comes First?

A King born in a stable. This season of Advent, leading up to the climax of Christmas, highlights for us the unfathomable surprise to be found in the marriage of majesty and the mundane.

There are few more poignant depictions of humility in Western culture than to behold a monarch being birthed in a manger.

Humility–and its accompanying virtues of submission and honor–are foundational concepts for us as we think about following with excellence. Insisting that you are superior when compared to your peers or superiors will quickly close off many opportunities for your contribution and influence.

For me, humility and unity go hand-in-hand, but there is a bit of a chicken-and-egg conundrum here. Continue reading “Humility or Unity: Which Comes First?”

A Present of Presence

Tell me one more time: why am I going?

I’m off to a conference later this coming week. As I think about all the time, energy, and money it takes to fly far away and spend several days in very long meetings, the intimidation of it all could be fairly overwhelming for this introvert. I’m going to feel overfull–mentally and relationally–while at the same time feeling utterly empty–physically and perhaps emotionally.

I’m going to be exhausted. And yet, I know it’s all worth it.

Because presence is practically priceless. Continue reading “A Present of Presence”