How can you build harmonious relations with team and hierarchy, in a moment of disruption and constant transformation? How to best speak up with your hierarchy when you need to challenge their opinions or decisions? How to find a better balance between supportiveness and courage to disagree – and speak up your truth? How can you encourage your team members to do the same with you?
These questions are frequently asked by some of our clients. To give an answer to some of these, we need to introduce you to an important concept that we have been using for a decade now: followership.
Followership defines a role, not a person’s identity. Followership is about supporting leaders and helping them to lead well/better. It is not about submission, but wisdom and collaborative cultures. Leadership is not just done by a leader, and followership is not just done by followers. These roles do not operate on one continuum, with one decreasing while the other increases. Rather, each dimension exists as a discrete one, interconnected and interchangeable in many situations, where both roles share the responsibility of a common purpose and mission.
The two roles dance together to create an outstanding performance that values wisdom over autocracy, collaboration over submission, harmony over competing, and a sense of togetherness over a sense of obligation.
The first step in that direction is to understand the importance of nourishing a culture where followers will help leaders to be better leaders, and leaders will help followers to be better followers. Like two complementary people involved in a dance where each of the parts is contributing to the result.
There are several scholars and practitioners researching the importance of Followership. We have the pleasure to work with Followership’s best-seller pioneer author Ira Chaleff for more than a decade now. His work challenges what is called the ‘leadership myth’—the idea that leaders are all-powerful and all-important, and the rest of the people in an organization are not relevant. His model allows categorizing subordinates into one of four categories based on the degree to which the follower supports the leader and the degree to which the follower challenges the leader. A good follower shares responsibility for a common purpose, wants an organization and its leader to succeed and works towards this end. They usually accept direction from formal leaders while influencing them to make better choices. Moreover, Courageous Followers can challenge and dissent from leadership actions that are not serving the common purpose well, and take moral stands when the context requires it.
To learn more about our work with teams, leaders and followers, do not hesitate to contact us.