Followership: A New Kind of Leadership

For years, top-down leadership has been the norm. The boss leads—you follow, even when evidence seems clear that the boss’ chosen path is not going anywhere.

Not anymore. Star Tribune columnist Gail Rosenblum writes that “Growing research on the 21st century workforce supports the notion that a hierarchical workplace—i.e. ‘I’m the boss and you’re not!’—is increasingly ineffective, particularly with telecommuters and younger workers who thrive on collaboration.”

Might I add with 21st century teachers and educators as well?

Rosenblum writes that business schools are rethinking their curricula; books are championing the concept and blogs, including Creative Followership, are springing up. The payoff? More power and autonomy for workers, and an overall happier workforce.

Followership only works when both the leader and followers are on board. The leader who is a “generous listener” will foster a team that feels empowered. Their voices will give rise to new ideas, productivity, and energy. Followers will step up to lead from their chairs, wherever they may be. Results happen.

There is a fluidity of roles—sometimes leading and sometimes following. None of us is good at everything. That’s OK. We don’t have to be. That’s why we have teams.

To me, the role of a good leader isn’t rallying the troops to implement “my great idea.” It is setting a common goal as a team and enrolling the troops in their ideas to reach that goal.

It’s not always easy. More on Thursday.