“Lead..Follow..or get out of the way” (George S. Patton)
Often when we discuss leadership, we think of it (as Dr. Palanski recently noted ) as one person telling others what to do. He discussed the idea of shared leadership, where the group decides together to take action. Beyond the idea of shared leadership is also the role that followers play in the leadership process. In a true leadership process, the followers are equally as important as the leaders.
A leader cannot lead without followers choosing to engage in the process. One way of looking at this is to think about different behaviors that we enact when interacting with others. Do we “claim” a leader role by speaking first, sitting at the head of the table, or volunteering to seek out a solution to a problem? Do we “claim” a follower role by offering to help when needed, or holding back in the moment because we have other responsibilities? Do we “grant” someone else the leader role by offering to help when needed? Do we “grant” someone a follower role by delegating a task for them? What about those who avoid taking a position at all?
Think back over your behaviors at work, at home, and in your community. What roles do you take in each of those domains? We’ve discussed quite a few ways to develop your leadership abilities over the past year, but let’s focus on followership for a second. Most of us must take follower roles in some areas of our lives; we are all too busy and only have a finite amount of resources to continually be in the leader position. So when we do claim a follower role, are we acting in good faith? Are we supporting our leaders to the best of our abilities?
Research on followership notes individuals may take different perspectives on the meaning of the follower role. In one view, a follower is anyone who formally or informally reports to an individual in a leadership role. The other approach, similar to what I discussed earlier, is the idea that the follower has an active and important role in the leadership process. This view moves beyond the idea of followers as sheep who blindly follow their shepherd to one where followers have an active duty to participate in the goals set out by the organization, family, team, etc. Proactive followership behaviors can include feedback-seeking, using influence tactics, taking initiative, and in some cases, breaking the rules when necessary.
Opportunities for proactive followership do depend on the types of leaders present. Some leaders feel threatened by proactive followers and would prefer a group of subordinates (word choice here is deliberate) that do not question the leaders’ actions. However, more effective leaders look to their followers to help accelerate the organization/team/community towards its goals. The latest research on followership shows numerous positive outcomes from proactive followers.
If you find that you are looking to be more proactive – at work, at home, in your community - the first step is to think about the behaviors you exhibit. Are you actively granting leadership opportunities to someone else, which is part of an engaged process, or are you just ceding leadership responsibilities? If you want to be more proactive, try discussing the vision or goals with your boss, your partner, or your community leader. Decide if you agree with that vision, and if not, ask questions and maybe pose some thoughts or creative solutions of your own. It does take time and energy, but the feeling of empowerment and active participation in the leadership process will positively impact other areas of your life.
What claiming and granting behaviors have you enacted recently?
As a recent seminary graduate entering a PhD program in business, I was shocked - shocked! - to discover that forgiveness in the workplace was a topic of interest to organizational researchers. As one might expect, forgiveness was a common topic among theology scholars. But forgiveness was a relatively new topic in the competitive arena of business. We now know that forgiveness is important anytime we are focusing on human relationships - which, of course, includes business.
Here’s what we know about forgiveness in the workplace:
Start with being grateful for them
After being abroad for the past nine Thanksgivings, I’m looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving in America. Although I really enjoyed sharing our holiday traditions with friends of many other cultures the weekend following Thanksgiving each year, there is something special about being able to celebrate it on the day with extended family (or in my case, my husband’s family). I’m really grateful for this!
The topic of gratitude has seen an explosion of interest in the media and academic communities alike. How many times have you been recommended to keep a gratitude journal or even tried it yourself. So what do we know about gratitude? It’s associated with a litany of great things for us. Feeling and expressing gratitude lowers the risk of poor physical and mental health including health complaints, inflammation, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, nicotine dependence, and alcohol and drug dependence. It’s also related to better coping and resiliency, more positive post-traumatic growth, and even better sleep.
Some of my former colleagues at the University of Limerick recently published an article that investigated why gratitude leads to improved health. Interestingly enough, the reason gratitude had such a positive effect on our physical health is that it makes people feel less lonely. Gratitude turns our thoughts and emotions outward and we reflect on positive aspects of others – how they have helped us and what they mean to us. It is summed up in the find-remind-and-bind theory of gratitude. Within this framework, the experience of gratitude fosters the development or finding of new relationships or it reminds us to focus on the positive aspects of those with whom we currently share relationships. In either case, it binds people together through reflection on positive aspects and mutual support. It fosters appreciative feelings and thoughts.
The act of expressing gratitude is also related to a host of positive outcomes for the receiver of that genuine gratitude. Feeling valued and appreciated touches on our three most basic human needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Gratitude can help us feel appreciated for the work we do (competence) and who we are as individuals (autonomy) and it clearly fosters a sense of social connection (relatedness).
Bottom line: Gratitude fosters connection. It’s good for us. It’s good for others. Let’s make a commitment to be grateful well beyond the holiday.