How to Follow and Still Be a Leader
We’ve all experienced that feeling of being overwhelmed with the responsibilities of running a team, a department, or an entire organization, regardless of the size. Everyone needs to focus part of their daily duties on being a leader within their organization, regardless of position. It’s then paramount to use the skills of a follower to be even more effective in the workplace. When you follow the cues of your staff, coworkers, clients, or even mentors and role models, you’ll be able to learn what’s working in your organization, how to fix or improve it, and how to truly grow your business.
Change Your View of Leadership
Past traditional models of business leaders may have consisted of taking constant meetings in-house to review, evaluate and respond to data. It’s not unusual to picture the manager or CEO remaining separate from staff, creating and maintaining the distinction between boss and employee. I suggest that like Henry V and the battle of Agincourt, you fight with your troops on the battlefront of your business—let them see your own strengths and fortitude! If all you’re doing is creating, reading and evaluating reports and financials, a vital responsibility of any position, you’re not on the front lines of your business, seeing and meeting staff and clients alike. If you are spending all your days behind your desk instead of in front of your employees and customers, you’re doing something wrong. Get up and get out, to industry events, to spend time with staff and customers, and learn what you and the company are doing right (and wrong) and how to improve.
Look Sideways as Opposed to Up and Down
We have a tendency to view organizations in a hierarchical manner but often people work better and are more productive if they are accountable to a group of equal level co-workers rather than one leader. It’s one thing to let your boss down, it’s another to let your co-workers down, and have them share in the blame. I often am amazed by the constant talk of employers needing to find team players yet not giving them the opportunity to truly participate in being part of a team. If you delegate leadership & accountability you create many more captains than yourself, who often might have a better skill set, ideas or motivational qualities in a particular area than yourself. Empower your captains and let them participate in growing the troops and business along with you.
Cultivate Your Corporate Culture
There’s an internal brand and an external brand to every company, and often the chasm between the two are quite wide. We may think of the behemoth Amazon as an incredible company but it has a high turnover rate and a great deal of internal employee dissatisfaction (find article link). While you’re up and out from behind your desk, you’ll be cultivating your own brand and corporate culture to both employees and clients alike. When was the last time you asked a staff member or client, “What is it that we do best? How can we make the workplace/product/brand better?” Don’t forget to strengthen your internal brand to increase employee retention, internal and external growth. Do so by leading to follow the company focus, energy and culture that you and your staff have worked diligently to create together.
Remember the old adage by Sir James Dewar:
“The mind is like a parachute;
it works best when open.”
it works best when open.”