Yes, I became one of these people who read 2-3 books at the same time. Most of them are books around what I do as a coach. I am looking for inspiration, nuggets, a line that will pull my attention to dig deeper and this week was no different. The inspiration came from the word followers. I got caught in the leader-follower term that we all use now. I think before it was the word "subordinates, " and since we are moving from the top down management to leadership so now we have the word: followers. But the more I think about it; I am not sure I would like to stick with this term, followers, let me tell you why.
I believe that my role as a leader is not to make all the decisions, but to create an environment that makes others shine. It is interesting watching myself struggle with not going into solutions when I lead (or even when I parent). As a coach, you stay away from fixing, or go into solutions for your client which is 99% very easy to me. But as a leader to allow the other side to come up with solutions, experiment with them and see where it will take us that's a work in progress. Everyone talk about what the leader needs to do to make people follow them. Leadership by its very definition presumes that there are followers to lead. And if there are followers to lead, that creates the necessity of an actual leader. Essentially, leaders exist because of followers and followers exist because of leaders (Hogg, 2001). I admit that I see it the other way around. I think that as I see it, it is about what the leaders need to stop doing, or even just do less? The less they do, the more space they create for others to shine. So if you stay with me, we move into Zen approach leadership where less is more. The less you suggest, the more others shine, the more you go to the back, or to the side, the more others want to go to the front. Even in the messiness of others, I have learned that it is what I don’t do or try to fix in them that will allow their storm to calm down and come back different when they are ready. So that made me think… if... I as a leader go more and more to the back if I focus on asking questions, if I manage myself to do less and create more space for others to move to the front, they are not followers.
Pause for our story time. Last time I talked about one of my biggest gifts, this time I will share one of my biggest weaknesses. My orientation, my sense of direction is just horrible. Put me in the car with GPS, and I will probably get lost. Every time I am sure that I walk or drive in the right direction without a map or GPS I walk/drive to the opposite direction.
When I was in college, my friend and I attended the same class for a year. For a year, every time we left the classroom, she slowed down and let me lead the way. Every time we left the class I took the wrong turn, then I would look at her and realized that she was giggling. After a semester she stopped and said: “Noa, I can’t believe, we come here every week, and every time we leave the classroom you head in the wrong direction”.
Yes, luckily my husband and my two boys have an incredible sense of direction, and I follow their lead, which takes me back to the word: followers. When I walk with my husband in a new city I don’t even try, I trust that he will take me to the right place, but in that trust, I let go of curiosity or learning, I move the responsibility to him. You see, as a follower, I don’t need responsibility, it is my husband's job to make sure we get to the right place. Now, in the next day, if I will need to walk on the same route that my husband and I walked the day before, I will have no memory of the path, I will need to start from scratch with a map as I have never been there before.
So you see, my concern when we use the word followers is that as leaders we want our team, our employees, our client or members to be engaged, to be responsible – but we come from an intention/mindset of seeing them as followers. How can they take on responsibility??? by the way as a leader do you want everyone to follow you?
“Hey! I need your help” I texted my husband who was sitting in an Irish Pub at the other side of the world “do you have a different word for 'follower?'”
Yes, that’s another problem I have, I start from my end thought and forget about all the intro. So I began my text message again, now with a full intro, or at least as much as I can write when my create brain wants an answer right here right now. I waited to see what words he will share.
I know as a leader and as a coach that I can’t allow myself to use the mindset of wanting others to follow me or invite others to create a culture of followers.
So I came up with the term: WALKERS.
When we walk, we can walk side by side and have a real conversation, but sometimes when the path is too narrow, you can walk before me, or choose to slow down and allow me to lead. It doesn’t matter unless we are hiking in North Carolina during spring, or summer or early fall and then I will probably ask you to go in front just in case we bump into a snake, but that's a topic for another post.
By the way, my husband came up with the word: “Devotee.”
What would be your word?