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The Role of Followers in Leadership Development
The onus is on leaders to create engaged, fulfilled followers who can help them drive change and achieve company goals. But to do that, leaders must first believe in their own strategy.
One of the most important things for leaders to possess is the belief that their strategy sets them up to win in the marketplace. Common sense would ask: How can leaders who don’t believe in their own strategy possibly get their employees on board? How can leaders create active, engaged, committed followers if they, themselves, don’t believe in the strategies?
Traditionally, leaders tend to fall back on the ways they were managed as they rose through the ranks — often centering around three F’s; facts, fear and force:
• Convey the facts that should motivate people to change.
• Instill fear as a motivation tactic, which often sounds like “get on board, or else.”
• Flat out force people to do what needs doing.
People don’t resist change, but they do resist being changed by someone else. In Alan Deutschman’s book Change or Die, he poses the question, “Could you change when your life depends on it?” Deutschman illustrates how even people in the United States who undergo coronary bypass graft or angioplasty surgery fail to change their lifestyles afterwards. There are few crises as threatening as heart disease and few fears as intense as the fear of death, but even those things can fail to motivate people to change. According to Deutschman, people won’t change because of facts, fear or force, even in the case of their own life. So, why would they at work?
Simply put, leadership means charting a course and people voluntarily deciding it’s an adventure they want to go on. It’s motivating and inspiring people to want to be part of something bigger than themselves, go on a journey, make a significant impact and feel a sense of belonging. Are we all so focused on leadership that we have forgotten about followership?
A New Hope
In today’s fast-paced global economy, the onus is on leaders to adjust traditional tactics and focus on creating motivated, involved, fulfilled followers who can help them drive change and achieve company goals. If they don’t, they risk higher turnover, lower productivity, limited or nonexistent growth and a general malaise across the organization.
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