Posted by: G. Lane Cavalier | May 8, 2007

Life: White Board Sayings Explained – Number 7

“To effectively lead, one must first learn to effectively follow!” – Unknown

A great quote that reminds us that we need to be good followers if we ever want to be good leaders.

By following, I think it can be interpreted in several different ways.

The first is actually following our manager or boss. If we expect to be a leader and have our staffs or anyone else follow us, we need to show these individuals we can take orders and follow as well. A primary responsibility of leadership is leading by example. If we aren’t being a good and active follower, then we aren’t setting the kind of example we should be. Remember, that this includes to things like telling your staff management ideas are wrong or not thought out. You may hold these opinions and even may be correct in doing so, but basically if you are telling your staff that management decisions are “bad”, what your really telling them is the appropriate way to to handle a disagreement with you is to complain about it to anyone who will listen. One trick that I try to use is to “never” use “I” when discussing Management decisions, I like to use the more generic term of “we” or “Management” so that anything I say is inclusive of management (including myself) as a whole.

The second is following our staff, teammates, peers or any other non-authoritative group. A leader does not need and should not need to be right all the time, nor do they need to be out front all the time. I once had someone say to me a good leader is the one who stands up in the “Board Room” when sales or profits are down, but allows everyone else to present when the numbers are up! It all follows a theory that leaders are people who grow others.

The third is actually a theory I recently was exposed to at a religious based not-for-profit organization. That is the concept of “Servant Leadership.” In a Servant Leadership position, you lead for the ultimate benefit of others, it is a great reminder that people need to allow and want you to be a leader because you have their best interest in mind. A true servant leader is one who asks themselves the question, “What is in the best interest of the group as a whole?”

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