Creating Followership: The True Test of Leadership

I was recently in a fascinating conversation with the leadership team of a client company.  The topic was followership.  I have been in hundreds of meetings discussing leadership, but in few conversations about followership.

The catalyst for the conversation was the company President saying something like, “I can’t do it all.  As a leadership team, we can’t do it all. We need everyone in the company to understand that doing their jobs well is a minimum expectation.  We also need everyone to ask questions,  challenge the status quo, and speak up when something doesn’t seem right. As leaders, we need to not only allow those behaviors, we must expect them.”  While this is a paraphrase, it was a powerful message.

The next hour was spent identifying “follower” behaviors for everyone at all levels. The consensus of the leadership team were these three takeaways.

  1. Great followership is active rather than passive.
  2. Improved engagement will result from defining great follower-ship
  3. When everyone is clear about the expectations of great follower-ship, a good culture will transform into an exceptional one.

To get started creating great followership at all levels in your company, try starting with these three activities.

  1. Get together a group of committed people from all functions and levels of your company and create the list of follower behaviors that would transform your company.  Align around the final list.  Keep it to 5-7 key behaviors.  This grassroots approach will create more ownership within your organization.
  2. Communicate the final output throughout the organization and why it matters.
  3. Figure out how to continuously reinforce it. Tell success stories at company meetings.  Bake it into your performance management processes.  Recognize exceptional examples of followership.  Continuously reinforce in ways that fit your company.

Great leadership needs great followership to innovate, grow and prosper.  Everyone on the same page, pulling in the same direction, achieving outcomes that truly matter.

Who can compete with that?

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