Reflecting on the children’s game; the intent of the “Leader” was to make it as challenging as possible to be a follower. Remember (as the leader) weaving in and out; over and under as many obstacles as possible? The simplest of truths is that while fun as children, this is not the best approach to leadership in the business environment. Your goal as a leader should be not only to make it easy to follow you, but enjoyable and rewarding while pursuing in-common goals.
As leaders we must model behaviors that define both the path and the vision of the destination; remembering that the journey is just as important as the destination. It DOES matter how you get there.
There is great opportunity and responsibility in all forms of leadership. In business and in life we have the opportunity to guide and influence the paths of others; and it is our responsibility to do so with integrity.
If you build it, will they come? Most but not all, will follow your lead- whether positive or negative. We are inherently social creatures who have evolved to follow for survival purposes. No, we don’t often find ourselves in situations; spears in hand, which call for group synchronized hunting of the mammoth for a meal. But, business does present its own interpretation of survival behaviors. Ideas like; there is strength in numbers, survival of the fittest and those who are outcast from the group will perish, have survived the millennia and thrive in the depths of our social interactions. In other words we are inclined to modify our behavior to mimic that of the group in order to ensure our place in the group. At our core we want to fit in and believe that if we don’t fit then we are at risk of losing our job. Further we are more inclined to mimic what we see than we are to do as we are told. Therefore leaders must first lead through the example of their actions.
If you want a team that arrives to work on time…don’t be late. If you want a team that respects each other … foster, acknowledge and reward integrity and generosity and don’t speak ill of other staff outside of your team. If you want a team that is innovative and creative…be receptive and open-minded when presented with new ideas. If you want a team that is forward thinking and works together toward a common goal…then focus on solutions, speak with confidence about the future and what you know your team can accomplish.
A Director, to whom I reported in my mid-thirties, told me that I should expect him to do the following with integrity (in order of priority) to Show me by his example, Train me, Authorize me, and Develop me to take over his job. He went on to say, that his only expectation of me was that I do the same for those who reported to me. This has been my model of leadership since. It is leadership with both the journey and the destination in mind and it is how Follow the Leader should be played in business.