As the concept of followership gains traction in contemporary thinking, it’s undoubtedly going to face one of the afflictions that plagues discussions of leadership: how do we define what we’re talking about? Continue reading “Followership: Ability & Attitude”
Despite being originally described by Robert Greenleaf in 1977, the concept of ‘servant leadership’ remains a popular consideration in the modern exploration of organizational dynamics. This bears out in my own experience: by far the most popular post on this website is our feature exploring Servant Leadership & Excellent Followership.
I’ll be delivering a seminar in a few weeks on the notion of being a follower through the lens of being a leader. Part VI of my book Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture is dedicated to this topic, and I find my thinking continuing to both expand and refine in this area. Continue reading “Excellent Leadership through Servant Followership”
Many of us regularly describe the work of personal development and growth as a “journey.” One thing that’s true of any trip is that it begins somewhere. For a GPS app to be able to plot your route to your destination, it has to be able to determine your current location.
Similarly, as we engage in the work of change and transformation, knowing where we are currently is essential for identifying where we’d like to go, the best course of action to take, the appropriate vehicles to use, as well as some of the challenges that might harass us while we’re trying to get there.
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”
Some would say we live in a leader-driven culture; I think it’s fair to simply say that we live in a driven culture, a society which revolves around individual whims and desires and the efforts to see those desires fulfilled. We’re told to grab hold of the things we want, to make things happen.
One lesson I’ve learned in my own followership is that this kind of advice doesn’t lead to the best outcomes in all situations. I need to be able to handle not getting my own way. I need to be able to set aside my own preferences. I need to be able to deal with loss. Continue reading “Letting Go of What You Want”
I write frequently about the idea of excellence. Throughout my book Embracing Followership, I emphasize that what we’re after is excellent followership—not mere followership, or mediocre followership, or satisfactory followership. Excellent.
Let’s consider for a moment this idea of excellence. Continue reading “What does it mean to be excellent?”
What is the ultimate aim of your leadership? There are a variety of tasks that fit under the classic definitions of leadership–making decisions, exerting influence, improving efficiency, increasing profits–but none of these capture what I believe to be at the heart of excellent leadership.
Excellent leadership fosters excellent followership. Continue reading “Leadership Lesson for Encouraging Excellent Followership #4”
Question: do your followers have a seat at the table? Is their potential for contribution being inhibited by always receiving their information through your personal filters? Are the gaps in your perspective leaving out relevant details, dismissing valuable courses of action, and leading to missed opportunities to anticipate needs and take next steps? Continue reading “Leadership Lesson for Encouraging Excellent Followership #3”
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”
In my personal journey of exploring followership, one of my early frustrations was that much of the writing on following was actually aimed at leaders, instructing them in how to make good followers. As a non-leader (at the time), I was looking for a resource that had someone like me as the intended audience.
While I believe that excellent followership begins in the followers themselves, in my journey of serving on various international teams and working groups, I’ve certainly seen that leaders do indeed have an important role to play in facilitating others’ followership. The cooperation of leaders and followers is a relational dynamic, a two-way street of influence, and thus the actions and characteristics of the one greatly impact the quality of the other to fulfill his/her role.
Looking at leadership through the lens of followership, what can a leader do to facilitate and encourage excellent followers? Continue reading “Leadership Lesson for Encouraging Excellent Followership #1”
There are a variety of jobs in the world. Some are by nature less intense than others. I’ve had several friends that have worked as late-night security guards at various buildings or housing developments. Although their presence was important, they often related to me that the job itself was not particularly intense: they regularly spent time reading books, studying for exams, or otherwise filling their attention while on the clock.
My employment experience in the non-profit world has been somewhat different. Not only is presence important, but the intensity is fairly high. I am rarely in a position of struggling to figure out how to fill my time simply to put in the required hours. More often, we face decisions about what to say no to, what to let go of, because there isn’t enough time or energy to do everything that we could possibly invest ourselves in. There’s no end to the relationships, the preparation, the communication, the meetings that we could involve ourselves with.
But how do we know when we’re outpacing ourselves? How do we know if we’re pushing ourselves too hard, for too long—overamping on our intensity in unhealthy and unsustainable ways? How do we know whether, in the course of our desire to be excellent contributors, we are actually stretching ourselves so thin that the quality of our followership is actually diminishing, even if our short-term output seems to be multiplying? Continue reading “5 Gauges for Your Followership”
As an author, perhaps it’s appropriate that I like written communication. Texting, more so than phone calls, is comfortable to me. And although my work necessitates me spending several hours a week on the phone or Skype, it’s still email that carries the bulk of my interaction with others.
Perhaps that’s why I have 11 email addresses! Continue reading “Person of Integrity?”