Leader or Follower? You need to be good at both!

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Leader or Follower? You need to be good at both!

Are you the person who always ends up taking the initiative, whether it be on team projects, in staff meetings or even at family gatherings, when really you’d prefer to follow someone else’s lead? The reality is that whether you consider yourself to be a leader or a follower, you need to have an appreciation of both roles.

It goes without saying that if you hold a management position with responsibility for leading others then your ability to attract followers is critical to your success. Without followers we have no-one to lead and there is no relationship. Since we know that people buy from people we need those relationships to be able to conduct our business effectively.

If you have a Twitter account then you will have followers; people who have found what you do to be of interest, or they’ve been drawn by what other followers have said about you.  Many of those followers will be unknown to us and we may never strike up a solid relationship with most of them. That’s fine for a social media communication, but what about the audience of followers we’ve acquired by virtue of the fact they work for the same company? How conscious are you of the reputation you are building with work colleagues who, dependent upon the size of the organisation in which you work, may also be relatively unknown to you?

In my previous life as Human Resources Director of a FTSE250 company, I was acutely aware that how we treated our best performers during a restructuring process was as critical as how we managed the reorganisation process itself. How to keep good people on side is often a theme of my work with clients. I know from experience that the people who make the biggest contribution are harder to retain and last to complain. They’ll simply move on and take their good will and capability with them. I couldn’t afford to let that happen, can you?

So, what can you do to encourage those people who are important to your business to become willing followers? The first step is to make a commitment that you will become the kind of leader that others will choose to follow – you can’t command them to follow you in business anymore than you can insist people follow you on Twitter.

People do business with people they know, like and trust and they work for companies with whom they believe they can make a meaningful contribution. In a world where our actions can go viral with a few clicks, your ability to lead effectively and also to follow has never been more critical. We ignore development of this skill at our peril.

When we get the balance right, it’s a win-win situation because both leader and followers are pulling together towards the same goal. This means that people work harder and the organisation is more likely to succeed. That’s good for the business, your customers, partners and investors and that’s both the reward and the definition of effective leadership.

Remember, we all have a boss, even if you’re the CEO or Managing Director and that means you’re a follower as well as a leader in your business. Ask yourself how you feel about working for your boss? Now consider this: How would you feel about working for you?

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