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Lead the Followers

When we were children we played the game called “Follow the Leader,” but we had it backwards. It should have been called “Lead the Followers.” I say that because the best definition I ever heard of a leader is that he is someone with followers. Without followers, a leader is… well, something other than a leader.

Have you noticed that other people respond to your ideas when presented? Can you rally the support of your workmates to get behind your initiatives? Do you get asked to take on projects that require team support? These are a few indicators that you are a leader. In truth, we all lead at times, but some of us find ourselves in this role more often than not. People generally fall into two broad categories – followers or leaders. Which category are you in?

If you are a follower by nature, that is not a negative statement about your character. It is best to have only one leader so others must learn to submit to the most qualified willing individual to lead the assignment. Even qualified leaders must learn to follow others when they do not have the lead assignment.

If you are a natural leader, you must learn to ‘play well with others’ because they make you what you are. Without followers a leader cannot accomplish his mission, nor can the followers; they need one another to get the job done. From my personal experience, many of my followers are smarter and more talented than me- we just have different roles and as the leader my role is to organize the team’s effort to get the most out of it.

It really boils down to answering the question, “given all the variables, what is the best way to get to the finish line?” In most situations the answer is obvious or there may be many equally valid solutions. In these cases the good of the team or the needs of individual members may dictate the best solution. Who can best lead the followers enabling the team to get the best result?

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”
~ Babe Ruth

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