Leaders often hate to follow. There’s ego, “I could do this better.” Or vision, “she’s not thinking big enough.” Or style, “that’s not how I would approach it.” When the stakes are high, you might need to jump in. Chances are there’s greater benefit to follow, feel and flow.
Follow more. Take the back seat. Observe, participate. Be led. If the guys a jerk, do the best you can. If she’s disorganized, consider the impact. Imagine what you would do the same and differently. Don’t judge. Do watch how others respond. Consider how followers with different styles perform under that leader.
Follow with the same intensity in which you lead. When deeply invested, the wins are that much sweeter. At the same time, disappointments and frustrations can run deep as well. Pay attention to following emotions to become an empathetic leader.
Integrate your leading and following. Follow more when leading. Lead and follow in the same team. Create opportunities for others to lead.
I remember the first time I received some really significant recognition at work. The music blared, the spotlight shown on me. I was escorted onto the stage in front of thousands. Pictures were snapped with top brass… the adrenaline rush was fantastic. As I returned to my seat, my boss pulled me aside and got very serious:
“Never forget how that made you feel. Someday you will be in a decision-making role, and someone will ask you if the investment in these recognition programs is worth it. Today you have your answer.
He was right. I am often in that decision-making role. I have my answer.
Taking the time to notice how we feel when we are followers, can inform our decisions as leaders. And we are always following someone, no matter whom we are leading.
How do we feel when…
- someone takes the time to give us really candid feedback?
- our risk-taking is supported?
- someone makes a big investment in our careers?
- someone takes credit for our work?
- we really screw up?
- we work really long hours and someone notices?
- … and no one does?
- we are talked to with dignity and respect?
- … or we are not?
It is hard to step back and embrace the learning, particularly when emotions are high. And yet, that may be our biggest opportunity to learn.