The Joy of Following by Sue Shellembarger, The Wall Street Journal
I am delighted that the Wall Street Journal is recognizing the importance of Followership. In addition to quoting my work they quote my colleagues Robert Kelley and Marc and Samantha Hurwitz who have written important books on followership and my client Brent Uken from Ernst & Young who contributed his own chapter on followership to The Art of Followership, which I co-edited. My only disappointment is in the graphics their art department chose that reinforce the outdated stereotypes of followers and do not support the message of the article.
I preferred to illustrate this post with a sporty image, showing the forwards of a girls’ rugby team supporting their scrum-half, who usually plays the leading role.
Many offices are finding they have plenty of leaders but not enough followers. And it isn’t easy to follow well.
… We hear a lot of talk promoting leadership in the workplace. But few people aspire to be followers.
… Most offices are populated with too many leaders and too few followers as a result. Now, some employers are training people in “followership.” That doesn’t mean being a doormat or a docile sheep, but taking responsibility for shared goals, being a self-starter and telling leaders the awkward truth when they mess up.
… A key component of being a good follower is providing honest, candid feedback up the food chain, being willing to go to your boss and say, ‘I think we might be doing this wrong,’ or, ‘There might be a better way,’
Just as leaders are responsible for bringing out the best in their followers, followers are responsible for bringing out the best in their leaders,” says Ira Chaleff, a Huntly, Va., consultant and author of «The Courageous Follower»…
… Using diplomatic language can help. If the boss strikes out in the wrong direction, an employee might say, “Help me understand your thinking on this,” tactfully inviting the boss to reconsider.
… About 70% to 90% of all work is done by people in follower roles,… But followers aren’t rock stars in corporate America yet. Only 362 books listed on Amazon.com focus on followers, while nearly 154,000 examine leadership.
… Interest in the topic has risen, however. Growth in work at home and other remote locations makes follower skills more important,
… the growing use of social media, where people frequently take on the role of follower to join a discussion or obtain information, has led people to understand that “following is a critical part of any healthy, reciprocal relationship.”.