It seems that sometimes I'm a contrary kind of guy. First, I dismiss the concept of "boss" when referring to leaders. Then I dismiss the concept of servant leadership. Now... well, let me share the quote first:

Aristotle We are what we repeatedly do.jpg
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“He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” ― Aristotle

Well, if Aristotle said it, could it possibly be wrong? Yes; yes it could. One might think I'm just being argumentative when I take counter positions on things like this but I don't see it that way. I see it as either problems with the language or problems with the concept whenever I disagree with something that seems to be popular with many of my leadership cohorts. In this case it's a little bit of both.

What's my issue this time? It's with the term and concept of "followers".

When I've been in a leadership position, I never thought of anyone who reported to me as a follower. I saw them as coworkers who just happened to report to me because I was entrusted with the responsibility of getting things done by leading the team.

In my mind, just because someone is the leader doesn't mean everyone else is a follower. I look at my sports references for background. Just because someone is a team captain doesn't mean everyone else is a follower. Because someone's been hired as the head coach or manager doesn't mean everyone else is a follower. How can one be a follower when they're making $15 million a year and the coach is making $3 million? Nope, that doesn't add up.

Yet, the coaches are in charge. Do you think they see themselves as ever being followers of any of the players? Would that even make sense in sports?

I've always tried to create leaders, not followers. I wanted to work with people who could work independently, who could make decisions when necessary, and only needed me when the team wasn't working properly, or when we needed an adjustment as a group. Sometimes it didn't work out quite that way, but the overwhelming majority of those who didn't want to be leaders became independent. It was rare when someone wanted to depend on me to tell them what to do all the time; thank goodness!

I read a lot of other articles before deciding to take this particular position. I wanted to see what others might be saying along the lines of leaders as followers. Here's some of what I came across:

* A lady named Carol Giannantonio said this: "What I mean by this is the ability to identify and follow the patterns of success within your organization-follow the footsteps of others who are "great leaders".

* A guy named Jim Kouzes said this: "So if we were to look at leadership and followership though this lens, here's what we'd be asking people to follow:

A clear set of values and beliefs consistent with their own
A vision of the future that they share.
Creative ideas that enable the organization to make changes so that the values and vision can be realized
Other people whose strengths and talents contribute to realizing shared values and vision, and teams whose collective capacity is greater than our own.
Our hearts and the esteem we have for the people who make it possible for us to get extraordinary things done"

* A guy named John Cameron asked this question: "Am I modeling behavior that I would find abhorrent in a follower?"

* A lady named Gwen Moran gave these 5 skills of being a follower that would make you a better leader: awareness, diplomacy, courage, collaboration, critical thinking.

African American Society 2010 Thank You Event
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I might be interpreting things incorrectly but none of those things sound like being a follower to me. It all sounds like coworker stuff, equality, sharing decision making, listening to others opinions and ideas, fairness, teamwork... I don't see being a follower in any of this.

Here's my issue, which is the same issue I usually have with things like this. I tend to believe the words we sometimes use either empower us or give us excuses we don't deserve to have.

If I'm the "boss", then I'm expected to make all the decisions and people are supposed to follow me, no matter what I say or do.

If I'm the "servant" then I'm submissive to the whims of everyone else and my only goal in life is to make things better for them and not care about my own interests.

If I'm the "follower", I want someone else to make all the decisions for me and I'll go along with it because I do what I'm told.

None of those terms sound like good leadership to me. Yeah, I know it's probably only semantics and that I'm taking it way too seriously... but think about it. I promote you into a position of leadership and the first thing I tell you is "to be a good leader you have to be a good follower." Do you know what that means? Would most new leaders know what that means?

If I say instead "to be a good leader you need to learn how to be a good communicator, be a great trainer, be compassionate and fair, but above all realize that your job is to lead your team to success by making them contributors to the process." Sure, it's a bit long; but isn't it more helpful?

That's all I have for now; what's your opinion?
 

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