Leaders vs. Followers

I would hate to try to estimate the number of words that have been written in books, articles, posts, blogs, and whatnot about leadership.  How to be a great leader, what not to do as a leader, what to always do as a leader, the key attributes of a great leader, et.al.  Then we can add in all those seminars and coaching sessions to the mix.  Lord knows how many of those there are.  One would think that the entire human population is striving to be leaders and leaders are seated on the right hand of God.  Well, that really isn’t true.  Actually, most of those in a leadership position are also followers.  Team leaders, department heads, unit managers, and even corporate officers all report to or follow someone above them in the organizational chart.  Thus, we can say that few are pure leaders.  Perhaps 1% of the working population, 2%?  In any case, well over 95% of the workforce is in a follower position.

With all that effort devoted to making leaders good, and with over 70% of the workforce unengaged it would seem that all that verbiage and oratory has been largely unsuccessful. 

However, the flow of written and verbal material continues to flow unabated.  Most of which simply restates what has already been said dozens of times before.

But, I have to wonder with the vast majority of the working population spending all or a large part of their working lives as followers how is it that no one is writing or lecturing on how to be a great follower?  Could it be that we have convinced ourselves that being a follower is somehow demeaning?  Does being a great follower smack of a lower class of humanity?  Are we thinking that over 95% of the workforce is a sub-set of humanity?

It has long been a practice in military ranks that one must learn to take orders before giving them.  One must learn to follow if one wants to be a leader.  Could it be that so many of our leaders are failing because they have never learned to be followers?

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Ken Vincenthttp://sbpra.com/KennethVincent/
KEN is a 46 year veteran hotelier and entrepreneur. Formerly owned two hotels, an advertising agency, a wholesale tour company, a POS company, a leasing company, and a hotel management company. The hotels included chain owned, franchises, and independents. They ranged in type from small luxury inns, to limited service properties, to large convention hotels and resorts. After retiring he authored a book, “So Many Hotels, So Little Time” in which he relates what life is like behind the scenes for a hotel manager. Ken operated more that 100 hotels and resorts in the US and Caribbean and formed eight companies. He is a firm believer that senior management should share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of management.
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Anonymous
Anonymous

Interesting observation, Ken, and I quite agree with your perception. Being a follower is not a bad thing and without followers why would we need leaders.

Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent

Very good point.

Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli

Without wanting to take work away from the coaches professional, I have always supported the so called positive leadership coaching, a model that exceeds a vision of leadership that is exhausted in what it does and who is a leader; to include followers and customers, who are often the promoters, builders, recipients and, increasingly protagonists of the ratio of leadership. It is the complex relationship leader-follower-customer that does the leadership. This model seeks to combine, in terms of methodology and design, the self-realization of the leader and of his vision, with the well-being of the followers and with customer satisfaction.
Self-fulfillment, well-being and satisfaction become the goals of a genuine positive leadership that on these coordinates must measure itself in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent

Perhaps the real key, Aldo, is how a leader makes others feel.

Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli

There is no doubt. The well-being of its employees is, however, the primary commitment of any leader.
Happy to hear from you.
Aldo

Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent

Have to wonder why so few “leaders” understand that basic.

Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli

In my long professional experience I have seen many “leaders”, even capable, active and energetic who tend to concentrate everything in their hands. They assign to the collaborators limited, specific tasks, providing little information and limiting their autonomy. They do not delegate because they fear that collaborators can overcome them, tor hat some of them can tarnish their role. Or they envy anyone who emerges, do not trust the “others”, are suspicious, see everywhere idlers, want to surround themselves with executors, not collaborators, underestimating “others” and overestimating themselves.
Only those who feel so strong that they can help others, and consider themselves a tool for guidance and orientation, can “feel” the need to take care of the welfare of their employees…But that means be human, recognizing vulnerability to experiences as the shame, judgment, reprimand. Have courage and ability to coexist and collaborate with others and take balanced and shared decisions.

Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent

Sadly, there is more of the former than the latter.

David Dibble

Ken, you make some great points. I’ll add something missing from leadership and management models that I believe is somewhat existential: Systems Thinking. It’s a fact that approximately 94% of the outcomes we experience in the workplace, both good and poor, are a function of systems/processes is which people work, NOT the efforts of people. We have been taught to lead and manage the 6%, trying to get people to change behavior to get the desired outcomes or solve problems. Yes, a true leader must care about people but what about setting people up for success in their jobs? Without good systems, the responsibility of leadership and management to co-create with workers, even good people cannot be successful. So often the challenges we see in businesses and HR are systems issues–even the soft issues. I’ve written a little book on this subject and I’m happy to send a copy to those interested here. Best, David

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