Is Followership the New Leadership?

In Col. Larry Donnithorne’s classic, The West Point Way of Leadership, followership is expertly defined in three ways:

  1. Followership is a form of self-mastery, control of one’s individual ego, and the discipline of listening deeply.
  2. Followership opens oneself to being remade into something more, usually via extreme circumstances that involve intense mental or physical challenges amongst peers.
  3. No matter what level of the highest leadership attained, there is always another higher authority, power, or office that requires additional followership.

If we stick only to the first point (self-mastery, ego control, listening deeply) we find enough reasons to start digging for followership. But does our ego let us?

Followership proves character. Followership samples one’s ability to sacrifice for a larger cause –– a family, church, school, department, committee, or company, etc. Followership also strips arrogance, selfishness, and dishonesty away –– three reasons why corporate world has been full with leadership troubles.

Conversely, inexperienced prima donnas, ladder climbers, and quitters can only charade their way into leadership positions –– instead of honestly investing 10,000 hours (Outliers, Gladwell) into legitimate followership, gutting it out, and mastery.

Nature eventually relieves wannabes of their duties, although at a considerable expense to others and the organization.

Life, work, and athletic competition are not always fair. Injustices abound. And the sharks are everywhere. Complainers still add zero value. Never mind any of these. The very best followers live up to their obligations anyway, press on anyway, and focus 100% on their leaders’ expectations anyway.

Is leadership dead? Of course not. Never. The very best leaders are busy, keenly on lookout for the very best followers.

Find out how to identify them and nurture the organizational environment to let them flourish.