I googled “Leadership” today and got 136 million hits. Then, I googled “Followership” and not surprisingly, got 155 thousand hits. That’s 877 times more Leadership sites than Followership sites. What does that tell you about the importance we place on being a leader over a follower?
But in reality, what’s a leader without someone to follow him or her? Probably… lonely.
I started thinking about how much it takes to be a good follower, especially the “first-follower”. The first-the follower is probably the most important aspect of any leadership movement. First-followers have to make themselves very vulnerable because it’s only the leader and themselves. If the leader is an idiot…that’s the leader’s problem…but if they are following an idiot, then that makes them…well…worse!
First-followers have to trust in what the leader is trying to accomplish and they must believe that it is a cause worthy of sacrifice. Followers must put aside their own agenda and they must become the energy and passion of another person’s dream or vision. First-followers must also passionately share the attributes of the leader and the vision to attract other followers.
Followers need to see three things in their Leader:
They must see that the Leader is:
- Committed to an outcome.
- Committed to the people.
- Committed to the journey.
If any one of the three is absent, the Leader will not be successful.
So, what is my takeaway from all of this thought?
Well, I believe we are all simultaneously Leaders and Followers. However, we tend to not think of ourselves as being subject to anyone else and don’t like to think of ourselves as Followers…but we really are. Leaders are viewed as “the person at the top” and the person that other’s have to respond to. However, regardless of our position in life, our title or our role, we all are required to serve the needs of someone else. Whether it’s our children, our spouses, our employees, stockholders or constituents…we all answer to someone.
I look to the Bible and wonder…which one was Jesus? A Leader or a Follower? He certainly had Followers. But he himself said that he was only doing the work of his father…so that would make him a Follower. And if Jesus is ok with being a Follower…then that’s good enough for me as well.
I think Jesus would agree that serving another person is the highest and best use of our time here on earth. So the question then becomes who serves whom? Do Leaders serve the Followers or do Followers serve the Leaders?
I wish more emphasis of Leadership training these days were placed on the proper perspective of serving.
I remember, as a kid we would always play follow the Leader… never lead the Follower.
Maybe the world would be a little better if we had.