Significance: From Potential to Participation

In our exploration of followership, we have oftentimes addressed the aspect of identity: followership is not merely an occupation, but a deeper part of who we are and what we have to offer.

Having a firm grasp on one’s identity is extremely valuable; being able to clearly answer the question “Who am I?” provides an important resource for participating with excellence and making your necessary contributions.

But there is an additional question to address. Continue reading “Significance: From Potential to Participation”

Leadership Lesson for Encouraging Excellent Followership #2

As a leader, there are a number of things one can do to facilitate excellent followership. We previously looked at “displaying dependence” as one critical aspect for opening the doorway to trust and soliciting the best contributions from your followers. Today, we consider establishing the environment.

Establishing the Environment. Teams and organizations have their own cultures, and one of the values of culture is in providing norms for interaction and expectations. Culture operates on a number of levels: broad national cultures create one layer of expectation, but those expectations and the nature of relationships become further refined (for example) at the state level, the organizational level, the department level, etc. There are layers and layers of culture that feed into the environment within which a given team operates.

It is the duty of the leader to intentionally establish that environment in such a way that it promotes, expects, and relies upon excellent followership.

What are some environmental/cultural factors that a leader needs to consider? Continue reading “Leadership Lesson for Encouraging Excellent Followership #2”

Servant Leadership & Excellent Followership

The notion of servant leadership has been en vogue in recent decades, fueled in part by Robert Greenleaf publishing his classic text in 1977. Given our cultural fascination with leadership, and our desire to imbue the concept of leadership with as many positive qualities as possible (see, “Leader: the ideal human being?“), it’s not surprising that the combination of leadership and servanthood became a popular notion.

As the idea of followership continues to be explored in more recent years, it’s worthwhile to consider how excellent followership and servant leadership are the same or different. Are they simply two perspectives on the same characteristics? Or is there an important distinction that should be part of our consideration? Continue reading “Servant Leadership & Excellent Followership”

Leader & Follower: It Takes Two to Tango

When looking at an office environment or a community committee, it may sometimes be difficult to appreciate the necessity and the interplay between leader and follower roles. But in the world of dance, it’s unmistakable. Continue reading “Leader & Follower: It Takes Two to Tango”

Lead or Follow: which is easier?

I’ve spent most of my career up to this point in strictly a followership role, without any formal position of leadership. In that time, I don’t think I ever found myself saying of my leaders, “You guys don’t know how good you’ve got it; your role is so easy compared to mine.”

Having more recently stepped into a leadership role, I can now verify the degree of challenge and burden which I expect many leaders face.

But does that mean that leadership is harder than followership? Continue reading “Lead or Follow: which is easier?”

A Leader is Best…?

What are the best attributes of a leader?

There is a famous quote on leadership from Lao Tzu that many are familiar with:

A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

I understand the intent of the observation: there is some virtue to be found in a leader that is able to facilitate the contribution of his followers to such an extent that he falls into the background amidst their accomplishments.

But I think there are some notions that are worthy of deeper reconsideration in Lao Tzu’s words. Continue reading “A Leader is Best…?”

Excerpt: ‘In Group’ Followership

Having spent a little time in Japan, one concept that I’ve learned about is the sense of there being an ‘in group’ and an ‘out group’. There are people with whom you are connected–by commonality, experience, relationship–and there is everybody else.

Without a strong notion of association as a member of a particular ‘in group’, we are almost certainly condemned to struggle in our followership. If we view ourselves as separate, outside, or different from the group, we will be hard-pressed to fully participate and relate–and thus unleash our very best contributions.

I share this thought in Chapter 20 (titled “Association”) of Embracing Followership: Continue reading “Excerpt: ‘In Group’ Followership”

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”

Mutiny or Association?

There are basically two choices when it comes to following: mutiny or association.

As I embarked on my journey of exploring followership, the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny was recommended to me as a worthwhile watch. I tend to enjoy all things related to the sea anyway, so this movie, set aboard a US Naval vessel, certainly appealed to my interests.

The story revolves around the USS Caine and the assignment of Lt. Commander Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) to replace her previous captain. Queeg displays a variety of odd behaviors, including being highly suspicious of most of the crew, and some of the officers eventually (and questionably) remove him from command. Continue reading “Mutiny or Association?”

Excerpt: Participate!

This is the grand debut! This blog post contains the first ever release of an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Embracing Followership!

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. Continue reading “Excerpt: Participate!”