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Leadership That Breeds Followership

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Leadership requires followership and following is an act of trust, faith in the course of the leader, and that faith can be generated only if leaders act with integrity.” Lawrence M. Miller 


Leadership is about going somewhere and in our role as leaders we need to ensure that our people are with us and that they feel connected to delivering the mission. The most effective leaders recognise that leadership is not about them and acknowledge that they are only as good as the people they lead. The best work relationships are partnerships - they require collaboration between both the leader and the team member regarding communication, working style, feedback, direction, and support.  

Following is an act of trust and as such building trust with our teams needs to be a priority for us as leaders. Trust is built when we feel valued by the other person. Empathy is a demonstration that the thoughts and feelings of others are important to us. Leading with empathy is understanding that the people we lead are important. Important to us, to others in the team, and to delivering. Empathy can only thrive in a psychologically safe environment. 

Creating a psychologically safe environment requires inviting people to follow along with us. Not demanding or belittling but including and valuing. People get the message: ‘I am valued. I am appreciated. I am wanted in this environment.’ 

Investing in your relationships with your team demonstrates that it's not about you, it's about them. Take an interest in how your people are doing, show that you value them, and they will repay you in followership. 

As leaders, we need to find time to ensure that we are creating psychologically safe places and that we make the effort to relate to our people’s situations, understand their needs, and - by working in partnership with them - remove the interference that is holding back their peak performance, for themselves and for the team and organisation. 

An environment of trust allows psychological safety to flourish. We know that a trust-filled, psychologically safe environment allows people to take risks and be innovative, but it also improves listening, feedback, and overall communication – essential components for people to feel in partnership with their leader. For the leader to be trusted, to be followed.  

One of the key elements of being a trusted leader is to listen more than you talk. People want to know they can give feedback or share opinions, and not get judged or side-lined. The leaders that excel at this, respond to feedback by saying tell me more andhelp me understand and include an appreciative thank you for sharing.

Inviting people to follow really gets at the heart of creating a psychologically safe environment. An environment of trust is created when you're invited to follow.  

Effective leadership is about  we,  rather than  me.

This article is distributed as part of our monthly Organisational Development Newsletter. Sign up here to join the growing community of leaders and change makers.  

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