Do you lead? In your workplace, family or community? Leadership is a topic that gets a lot of airtime. In a career it’s something to aspire to. And in business its something we devote a lot of resources to.
Strategy. Organisation structures. Training. Mentoring. It’s all about leadership. But what of the followers?
Try googling leaders, or leadership. You’ll find about 1.5 billion search results in less than a second.
Followers? Only 438,000 hits come up.
Given there’s a whole lot more followers, than leaders, don’t you think this is a curious paradox?
Because here’s the thing: leadership can only be effective if others choose to follow.
And, for followers, success in life will be linked to the choices we make about who we choose to follow, or not.
And even leaders are usually followers as well.
Over the past decade since I began working in the area of gender diversity, I’ve seen a massive investment by organisations to increase the representation of women in leadership. Without questioning the model of leadership that we’re asking women – and men – to aspire to.
What if women (and men) aren’t climbing the corporate ladder because they don’t believe in the model of leadership on offer. The 24×7 worker. The hierarchy. The inflexibility. The top down traditional model that rewards workers for compliance to the status quo, the entrenched norms, even if there’s a better, alternate way of doing things.
Yes, many have shared my experience of working with aspirational leaders, who bring out the best in us. They stretch us, support us, believe in us and benefit from our contribution.
Then there are the women who have held senior positions, or could do, yet they’ve opted out because they’re not inspired to follow. They see highly directive leaders who lack the ability to consult, facilitate or moderate actions and behaviours and outcomes. And they vote with their feet, moving to organisations with more inclusive culture or starting their own businesses.
Many compare the double standards of their own performance against the mediocrity of their more politically-minded peers and wonder why their hard work isn’t paying off. Why are they not getting the same opportunities? What more do they have to do to be noticed?
Others look around after paying their childcare fees and spending their evenings preparing dinner then school lunches then getting a sufficient supply of laundry organised for the next day and they wonder… Is it all worth it?
The solution comes down to followership. If their leader is worth following, they’re more likely to stay. If they’ve created a team that enjoy following them, so they can do great work in an efficient and productive way, they’re more likely to stay… If they are given permission to create their own pathways and deliver outcomes under their own steam, they’re more likely to stay.
No one – leader or follower – has a monopoly on the best ideas. But the best leaders are those who can harness the collective wisdom of their team to produce the highest quality output, efficiently and effectively. And who trust and encourages their followers to challenge the status quo.
This collaborative, consultative approach to co-creating value is what followership is all about.
So curious have I become about the power of followership that I’ve crafted a new keynote presentation on the topic, that is being exceptionally well received.
If you’re interested in understanding the differing traits of traditional leaders versus followers; the behavioural indicators that underpin the sustainability of the followership model in the operational context; and real strategies and actions the leader and follower can apply to unlock that maximum mutual benefit to the individuals and organisation, then please do reach out .
I’d love to have a chat and discuss options for delivering a workshop or presentation to your team.
Yours in followership,
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