A Followers Perspective on Leadership –

How would you describe leadership? A friend of mine, preparing to speak at an Aerospace Leadership Conference asked me the question, “If you were to describe leadership to someone, aspiring to be one, what would you say?”

At first I didn’t know what to say and then I asked her the question, “From whose perspective?  The leader or the person considering whether they are willing to be led?”

In our society, there is much push and desire for individuals to rise to the rank of leader; we glorify their accomplishments in books and articles, hold numerous conferences and events annually providing guidance on achieving such status, and give out awards to some of the best.

What is often overshadowed, is how important the “follower” is in this equation. A leader only exists, if there is someone willing to follow them. As a leader, I can try to describe why I think someone might follow me, however because I am not the one following, there is no way for me to know. Leaders are created through the eyes of their followers.

So from this perspective, in order for me to become a follower, I seek people who:

    • Are able to paint a picture or provide me a sense of the possibility of a brighter future through their ideas and concepts. They look beyond the challenges of today and continually remain optimistic in what the future holds
    • Are willing and open to making adjustments to those ideas, based on the things that are important to me. They recognize that in being open to different ideas and perspectives, it allows for the building of a shared vision, ultimately making it easier to achieve the results.
    • Help me to understand how my specific skills and talents could be used and the value they hold in helping to achieve that goal. They recognize me as an individual and help me to actualize new levels of success by believing in me to do so
    • Help everyone to see the strength of diverse ideas, opinions and people within the group. They demonstrate and build the skills within the group to resolve the conflict of ideas, without creating conflict within people.
    • Remain committed to the achievement of a goal, even in the face of diversity or obstacles. They are willing to make adjustments in the path taken, however are never willing to compromise the destination. In the face of diversity, they remain steadfast in their commitment to their followers, in believing together they will overcome whatever is put in front of them.

While this may seem like a tall order, being a leader is one. Followers make the leader and because of this, leaders understand in focusing on them and bringing out the best in them, is what ultimately creates success for the entire group.

Cathy Snelgrove

Cathy is a Senior Partner in Siere, a company, focused on developing small to medium size business leaders to engage their workforce. Cathy is a guest blogger and speaker on the topics of small to medium business growth and entrepreneurship. She is the co-author of two books; It Is What It Is, Or Is It…All About Business and the award winning book, You Couldn’t Have Told Me This Before I Started My Business?.

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