Leadership, Followership, & Consensus

I was recently presented with these words, reported to be from former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: “Consensus is the absence of leadership.”

Coming from a perspective of intense interest in the subject of followership and group dynamics, this perspective instantly set off in me varying degrees of umbrage and frustration. Continue reading “Leadership, Followership, & Consensus”

Review of Leadership Goals

Two years ago I made a profound transition. Having worked in the same organization since 2006 in various follower roles, I was asked to step into a formal leadership position.

The timing was ironic. I had recently completed the editing of the manuscript for my book, Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture, in which I several times had stated that I’m a follower (not a leader). When the organization needed to increase its capacity to provide better support for teams and having asked me to provide that support for those working in various parts of the UK, I found myself needing to update the book’s content as I had stepped into a new realm of responsibility. Continue reading “Review of Leadership Goals”

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?”

Followership is Not New

I had a recent interaction with a website editor that made me smile.

In creating the content tags to be used for future posts, the editor didn’t want to include ‘followership’ as one possibility because it’s too new of a term and thus needs further development and explanation; he posited that readers will need instruction and understanding before they’ll connect with the concept.

Being personally passionate about the topic of followership, I must admit that my initial reaction was umbrage, a bit annoyed and aggrieved that something so intrinsic to life, work, and relationships could be thought to be too new to highlight. But eventually, as I reflected on the journey of ‘followership’, I smiled. Continue reading “Followership is Not New”

A Critical Oversight in ‘Team’

It’s often said: There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’. When we think about team, we’re supposed to think about the collective unit, a group joined together, without individual ambitions getting in the way.

But, we don’t actually do that.

Nor should we. Continue reading “A Critical Oversight in ‘Team’”

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”

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…?”