Leadership requires a strong back. It requires a soul that can take the hard knocks.
It also requires followers. Without followers, there is no leadership.
We’re seeing a unique form of leadership, in America today. It’s not necessarily popular with a large group of the American people, but it’s there, it exists, and it will be part of our lives for at least the next four years. For those who are unhappy with this turn of events, they have no recourse but to fall back on the failed leadership of their team. And try to fix it.
What happens, then, when leadership fails you? What do the followers do when their leader does not achieve the desired result? What do you, the leader, do when followers stand there, heads hung in despair?
First, let’s talk leadership in general.
You can become a leader, or you can be born a leader. Much like playing the piano. Born pianists are superb and stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries. They set a standard. They lead, sometimes, without words or intention. They just are.
Those of us who want to learn the piano, who practice diligently, who put heart and soul into the task, can learn to be amazing, concert pianists. And, for the folks at the concert, the subtle difference between the born pianist and the trained one, may be invisible.
The followers are not always concerned with the reason the pianist is on stage. They are consumed by the performance. The pianist who understands that serving her followers is the gate to her desires, may achieve greater success than many others, who do not care a whit for the audience, forgetting that without the audience, there is no performance.
I think leaders fail when their performance is lacking, and they know it, but ignore it. They fail when they lose the passion they once had for their purpose; there comes a staleness in their very appearance and voice. They fail when they lose sight of the faces of their followers; their gaze is only on the path in front of them, and somehow, their feet are the only feet trudging forward.
I think leaders fail when they forget the value and importance of their followers, in favor of their own desires.
Followers fail when they expect too much of their leaders. They fail when they embody their leaders with Godlike qualities. They fail when they expect the leader to be all, do all, and perform all.
Followers fail when they don’t do their job. The job of performing in the group, as a member of a community, as one individual joined with other like-minded individuals, set to accomplish great things – with a strong leader front and center.
Failed leadership is not the end…of anything. It is always the beginning. Each day ends with the shadows formed by a setting sun. Each day begins with an aura of light rising over the horizon. In each 24 hour day, we, leaders and followers, have opportunity to fix wrongs, accomplish amazing goals, and be both leader and follower, in our sincere efforts to make life better all around us.
Leadership is not so unique. Followership is necessary for all leadership achievement.
You must be a follower before you can be a leader.
You must be a follower as a leader.
You must never take for granted that your place at the front of the line is assured.
And, if you fail, here and there, you must get up, brush the wrinkles out of your suit, take a deep breath, and begin again. You must learn to listen to your followers. They will tell you where you went wrong. And, as a leader or two emerges from the crowd, you must welcome the new voices with sincerity.
In the end, perhaps Golda Meir said it best. What do you think?