Followership Versus Leadership

Garry Briese gave a great presentation at an Emergency Management Summit

by Eric Holdeman / March 24, 2012

This past week Garry Briese gave a presentation at the Seattle Emergency Management Magazine's Summit in Seattle.  His topic was on followership since we all are accountable to someone, even if we are leaders in our own right.  His point being that there is a great deal of training available for those who aspire to be leaders, but when have you seen a course on being a good follower?  It is similar to the point I've made before about speech training, but when have you taken a course on listening?


My notes from his session are below:


Followership is the mirror image of leadership.  Most will never have taken a class in followership.  You cannot have leaders without followers.  There is a skill set for leadership and followership. 


Our education, training and rewards are based on leadership.  Most people spend our time in learning about leadership positions. 


It is the actions of followers that determine the success of a leader.  The success of organizations is more the result of good followership rather than great leadership.


Inspirational leadership is about light and vision.  Setting the path and then asking, “Do you agree?” 


Leadership ….influencing others


Followership…seeking or accepting influence


People do not like to describe themselves as a follower.


Even in emergency situations we need good followers.  Followers need to hold their leaders accountable and are responsible for having a dialog with them.


Johnny Depp will be playing Tonto in 2012.  Leader-follower pairs.  The Lone Ranger and Tonto.  It is Captain Kirk and Spock. 


Followership is like the foundation of a building—you don’t see it.  Leaders come and go, followers tend to stay. 


Followers have all the power, leaders only think they have power. 


Respect and disrespect – both are earned. 


The encouragement & acceptance of followers who speak or act independently shows precisely the style of leadership the organization values. 


Role Models…these are people who influenced us.  Remember what worked well…for that person…in that time and place.


Contemporary lessons from historic experiences.  Choose carefully who you are going to model yourself against.


Jeff Smith, Goldman Sachs “leadership” and “followership” he had the ultimate act of loyalty.  What will the results be?


Six characteristics of followership:

  1.   Tell the truth.  Single most important characteristic of a good follower.  Followers who tell the truth and leaders who listen, are an unbeatable combination. Negative interactions have a much bigger impact than positive interactions.  “Bad is stronger than good.”  Negative interactions between leaders and followers are five times more impactful 
  2. Be Supportive.  Don’t blame your boss for an unpopular decision or policy.  “I know this is an unpopular decision, but….”  Absent person example of trust.  [I call it confessing the sins of the boss in the hallway after the meeting.]
  3. Give your boss the benefit of your knowledge.  Your job is to make your boss, and your organization, successful.  Resist the temptation to tell your boss what you think he or she wants to hear.  An obligation to speak up, but disagree in private. 
  4. Take the Initiative.  Don’t allow problems to go unsolved.  Do what needs to be done.  Provide solutions, not only issues.  
  5. Be Aware of your Own Biases.  Your biases impact every decision you make.  Instead of assuming…ask.  Give the benefit of the doubt.  
  6. Keep the Leader Informed.  The higher you are in an organization, more and more people will be less inclined to talk openly with you.  Followers need to provide the good, the bad & the ugly.