Oct 10 / Helen Bryant

Have You Earned Followership?

Much is spoken about leadership, but a question not asked as often if you lead is, have you earned followership?

Leadership is often focused on the direction, about what you think you should do. 

Followership is about how others respond to you. Do they follow?

You can still get things done via the directive route, but without strong team buy-in and empowerment, you are not creating an environment where people will thrive and do their best. You run the risk that people will leave at the first opportunity, so you are building a team on weak foundations.

The best leaders know success is not about themselves; it is about the team's success. They know how to encourage, influence and empower and, as a result, have willing followers.
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3 Tell-tale Signs You Lack Followership

#1 Rule through control and fear, not transparency

Foster an environment of control and fear rather than one of trust and team empowerment, and you will make it hard  to get the best from your team.

Many managers are in directive mode most of the time; they fail to ask questions to understand situations fully and feel the need to jump in and tell their team what to do by default.

👉 Instead: Build trust through transparency and open and effective communication. Ask plenty of questions to ensure you understand what they think.
Be honest, share information, involve your team in decision-making processes, and be willing to explain why things are as they are to give context and meaning.

#2 Work too much on the tasks, not the people
Developing strong relationships with your team members is crucial. Weak one-on-one interactions and a lack of focus on their development can hinder followership.

Many managers work at the level of a ‘super individual contributor’, involved in all the work, despite the role of a manager being to empower and achieve results through others.

Having a lack of knowledge about your people means you are unlikely to know what motivates each individual, and as a result, you won’t harness the power of personal motivation.

👉 Instead: Have regular and consistent One-on-Ones with your team to build strong relationships with them. These should be part of your operating system as a manager, a critical moment of alignment between you and each person who works in your team, and thus essential in motivating teams.
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#3 Low self-awareness
Being self-aware as a leader allows you to recognise your strengths and areas for improvement. Leaders who lack self-awareness can have low emotional intelligence and may struggle to earn followership. 

Managers who have low self-awareness often fail to seek feedback actively from their teams. It demonstrates a low commitment to growth and improvement as a leader. Ignoring feedback erodes trust and can hinder followership.

👉 Instead:
 Encourage open feedback from your team,  and take concrete steps to address any concerns or suggestions. Continuously reflect on your leadership style, seek feedback, and actively work on developing your leadership skills.

Earning followership is a fundamental aspect of effective and adaptive leadership. By understanding the difference between directive leadership and followership and recognising the signs if they are missing, you can take action to create a team environment where people feel valued, motivated, and inspired to do their best work.  

Remember, creating an environment where people can thrive and succeed is the mark of a truly exceptional leader.

Action step: 

🤔 Spend a little time reflecting on these 3 questions:

- How open and transparent are you with your team?
- How effective and consistent are your One-On-Ones?
- How often do you reflect on your effectiveness as a leader? How could you get more feedback?

As a result, what could you do to earn more followership from your team?

Discover how 10 minutes a week can step change your leadership impact.

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