Leadership is not as mystical and magical as many make it out to be. Whatever else you might believe about leadership, the bottom line is that leadership becomes manifest in behavior – things we do and say. Our behavior follows patterns, those patterns are driven by our assumptions, and our assumptions are learned.
Want to learn how to behave effectively when you are given the privilege to lead others? Learn how to behave effectively as you engage with those that you grant the privilege of leading you.
How you follow is exactly how you will lead. We learn our assumptions as followers about the roles and responsibilities of leaders and followers. The assumptions about what is acceptable and not acceptable drive what we do and never dare to do as we interact with our leaders. When we become leaders we impose those learned assumptions on our followers by sending them clear signals about what is acceptable and not acceptable as they interact with us.
Dependent followers do their jobs but their learned paradigms of power and authority keep them from providing issue focused suggestions, challenge, and dissent to their leaders. Dependent followers believe and behave as if “you are the leader, I’m not.” If you are a dependent follower, you will force dependency on your followers when you become a leader. You will not encourage interdependent followers as a leader because you never have and still do not practice that as a follower yourself.
Interdependent, partner followers assume full responsibility for their assigned duties but also assume full responsibility for the constant improvement of how those duties are performed. Interdependent followers come forward with suggestions about what they can do to help improve the processes that govern their jobs, challenge the leader to improve ineffective policies and procedures, and dissent when the leader’s behavior violates the shared purpose.
Don’t kid yourself. You will NEVER be an interdependent, partner leader if you are not an interdependent, partner follower. You might think you can be a chameleon as a leader, but over time, people will see your true colors.
Be careful how you follow.