The idea for this blog flowed from the writing of the book “Leaders & Misleaders – the art of leading like you mean it”.

The tension between leadership and misleadership in the workplace, politics, and our communities affects us all, and misleaders currently seem to have the upper hand. This blog hopes to reverse the trend by boosting awareness and understanding through the sharing of personal experience of leadership and misleadership in the workplace and beyond.

Each fortnight a new issue will be introduced by an article or a brief insight into the leadership challenge. You are invited to share your comments, experiences, and opinions.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Leaders make the best followers; so get more leaders in your team

They say too many cooks spoil the broth, but having too few leaders can often land a business in the soup.  The high incidence of disengaged employees, apathy, disruption, conflict, absenteeism, and low-productivity is not merely an indictment on the leadership in business, but is also indicative of a failure of followership among employees.

More leaders in the rank and file provide the only real remedy.

This is not just possible, but also entirely practical.  The reality is that the sound judgment and emotional maturity required for leadership can only be developed in the ranks, and it is only people who show the commitment and character to be effective followers who will be able to make the step up to lead when the need arises.

All human beings have the potential to lead because all have the ability to develop the practical wisdom, courage, self-control, and sense of justice that are the basic requirements for leadership.  Leaders are made, not born.

However, upbringing and education inevitably result in the potential being more developed in some people than others by the time they are ready to enter the workforce.  Moreover, in this day and age, negative cultural influences in social life as well as previous working environments are quite likely to have frustrated, perverted, or even suppressed the leadership potential of many of the people seeking employment.  It usually takes long-suffering leadership to turn such people around so that their leadership potential can be revived and redirected.

In order to develop leaders, the first step is to foster a commitment to the common good and the self-leadership that entails.  Ask any soldier – before anyone is promoted, they need to have demonstrated their ability to follow.  You can’t give orders until you can take orders.

Personal integrity is the surest indicator of well-developed leadership potential, and is precisely the quality you should look for in as many of the people you employ as possible.  They will not only help you build a much more effective and dynamic team, but also make succession planning a breeze.

Consider the qualities that make leaders the best followers:
  • ·       They have integrity and stand by the corporate vision – as long as it has integrity
  • ·       They take their personal responsibilities seriously, and need less supervision
  • ·       They are committed to the team, always supporting others, and encouraging them
  • ·       They listen, and make sure everyone knows what’s going on
  • ·       They are honest and will speak their mind, even if it’s not what people want to hear
  • ·       They are creative, open to ideas, and show the initiative that makes a business hum
  • ·       When the going gets tough, they’re at their best, bringing out the best in others
  • ·       They exude confidence and counter the cynicism that poisons so many workplaces
  • ·       They know that the essence of leadership is service, seeking to make things better
  • ·       The way they conduct themselves inspires others to contribute in the same way

Developing a culture of leadership in your business recognizes the inescapable fact that whenever you employ a person, you are employing someone with potential.  If the potential is nurtured, your team and your business will benefit richly; if the potential is stifled or ignored, you can be sure it will create problems in some form or other.

Leaders are self-motivated, patient, and prepared to persevere in the face of difficulties and disappointments.  Those qualities aren’t given – they have to be learned in the hurly-burly of life, and in a society where self-gratification is the prime value, the great majority of people in business simply don’t have them.  The more people with those qualities that you can get on your team, the more chance you will have of creating a culture of leadership.

The old warning about the dangers of having too many chiefs and not enough Indians has actually got the tomahawk by the wrong end.  A culture of leadership, where the leadership potential of all is nurtured, means you always have people making decisions for the good of the team and the business rather than for their own selfish interests.  And that is the best preparation they can have for the time when they are called to take up the responsibilities of an official leadership position.