Understanding Why Your Own Followership is
Crucial to Success - Yours and Others'
Let's face it. We all want to see ourselves as leaders and certainly not followers. And it's true. We are strong in that way. Every day we are making the tough calls and wear that buck-stops-here kind of accountability cape. But what about your work around growing the other leaders, namely your superiors? Does your Followership support the growth of your immediate supervisor and of their immediate supervisor? It should, and more importantly, it can easily. If it doesn't, you are missing out on prime opportunities for you and for the entire organization.
It's what I like to call "the forward effect". Sound a little like kissing up? If Followership is well done, it's way more effective than mere flattery at not only strengthening your own job security but also opening up opportunities within the organization and elsewhere. CEOs and other senior staff need to be surrounded by people with integrity who are looking out for them, and middle managers need that from their subordinates, and subordinates need it from each other, and so on, and so on. Just for the record, we're defining Integrity as transparency in agendas, owning mistakes, taking healthy risks for the good of the cause, and honest reporting.
Today, having strong Followership skills means professionally nurturing those above us in the chain so they can be as successful as circumstances allow. It's the new black in professional protocol fashion. I use to half-jokingly call it Raising Administrators. We were the foundation on which that administration was built. My bosses had to have the support they needed to do well; otherwise, none of us would have been very successful. They needed us to provide room for their growth.
It's a chain of support and one that is not entirely selfless. Sharing the credit may feel out of whack at times. After all, it's your project, your team, your sweat and tears. But your being there is not by accident, and though that supervisor may have done nothing more than to get out of your way long enough for you to get it done - that's important! Just ask the leader who is micro managed by an overbearing and controlling superior.
So, here's the deal. The more successful my boss is at her work, the better the likelihood I have for increased opportunities. I consider it my job to promote my supervisor's accomplishments, protect him from misinformation or lack of information, and establish a No Surprises work environment. I ask that of my team members as well.
It's pretty simple really. If the ones at the very top are not succeeding with integrity (see definition above), no one else will either. In some ways, my Followership skills are some of the most important tools in my Leadership Toolkit, and I keep them sharpened and on hand.
Want to know more? Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders. Barbara Kellerman (2008)