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Following the Leader


Photo Courtesy of Sonja Andersen

“A leader should not be the only one who makes sacrifices”

In last week’s article, looking at the qualities of leadership was the main focus (click here to read it). Although countless books have been written on that subject, the discussion is rarely geared toward those who are being led. Everyone has been a follower at one point in life and since followers always outnumber leaders, it would stand to reason that this perspective would provide valuable insight.

Being a Follower does not imply that one blindly obeys each command without any responsibility for that action. Nor does it exempt others from sitting back and reaping the benefits without effort. If there is any expectation of getting something, it requires being part of the solution. While those duties and expectations change depending on the overall circumstances, members of the group should strive to understand what needs to be done to accomplish those goals.

Perhaps the word “Follower” denotes the wrong impression and should be thought of more as a “Doer”; one who will do something to contribute based on his or her abilities, proficiencies, and experiences. Each Doer has different levels of skills and talents which a wise leader will be able to distinguish as well as appropriate the right tasks for each person.

Being a good Doer also suggests having a certain level of discernment and the ability to understand what is being asked for the good of the entire group. Unfortunately, leaders become corrupt and may demand actions that risk the integrity of the Doers. After gaining their trust through charismatic spectacles or perpetuating all kinds of deceptions, the leader – now turned tyrant – will change course and mandate instructions which aim to secure that leadership position and prohibit any other person from rescuing the group.

There are responsibilities involved in being a Doer and what may be the most important and most difficult part is realizing that sometimes a request may not be fair and require more effort than those in the rest of the group. Again, this is very situational because a soldier’s risk can mean life or death, while an employee may only forfeit a few extra hours of free time.

Creating a precise list of all the expectations and responsibilities that Followers need is virtually impossible. Often, the work of a Doer goes unrecognized and can feel as though it is not appreciated. Egos, combined with the human ability of freethought, creates opportunities for arguments and misunderstandings which ultimately become breeding grounds for strife and conflict. This is when the wisdom of a great leader will propose ways of reconciliation and teamwork but it requires determination from every member of the team to work together and resolve those issues for everyone’s greater good. If a Doer expects to receive anything with no contribution, perhaps the feeling of entitlement will be the only thing received.

What are some of your thoughts or even specific instances when as a Doer, you put your own needs aside for the benefit of the team? Please feel free to comment and thanks again to Sonja Andersen for the beautiful picture.

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