The next meditation on followership from Ira Chaleff’s book “The Courageous Follower” is: If abusive leaders do not change their behavior, I can and will withdraw my support. If we don’t confront abusive behaviors, then we collude with the leader in the abuse. Our silence is construed as assent.
People that knowing and willingly abuse power are counting on the fact that no one will have the courage to stand up and challenge their behavior. A follower that has the courage to challenge bad behavior is a force to be reckoned with, especially if the follower is a stellar and purposeful performer.
Challenge bad behavior early, because the longer we wait the harder it gets. We challenge because we care about our leader and the organization we share stewardship for with her. We are willing to be patient with our leader as she struggles with the discomfort and fear of confronting her own weakness, but we must be resolute.
If the behavior does not improve, we have to be brutally honest with ourselves and admit that it probably never will improve. At that point, we have a choice to stick with our leader and the organization or to withdraw support.
If we stay, we need to understand clearly that we will NEVER have a voice. If we surrender our voice, we surrender the essence of our dignity. Without a voice, we have no hope of ever being remarkable. Is any job worth that?
If we confront the leader and tell her that although we will continue to perform our duties we no longer believe in and support her, we need to be prepared to have our employment terminated. But do we really want to work for people that don’t give a damn about us, that treat us as replaceable parts in an organization they are driving to the bottom? If we don’t quit a terrible job, we might survive, but we will never thrive.
We should plan our contingencies wisely, but don’t waste any more time than we have to working for people that disable rather than enable us. It is our responsibility to be prepared for the day we will be given the privilege to lead others, and we simply can’t be prepared if we don’t learn as followers how to recognize and confront an abuse of power.