Often times we hear how leadership has failed us and that the CEO or other leadership position is responsible for the failure of a company. We heard this with the Enron failure, the mortgage and bank failures, and even the GM bailout. These statements would lead one to believe that the leader is a standalone post, no support, and no checks and balances. What the leader says goes, without question. This stance is far from the truth, but it does reflect the majority of the leadership discussion and training. Today’s leadership training is full of Situational models and personality models to help us be better leaders. Almost none of these training models discuss or even approach the Leadership Compact-an agreement between the leader and the follower to look out for each other and to do their part in order to achieve a successful leadership environment.
All leaders are surrounded by a core group of followers sometimes referred to as confidants. When we see bad leadership, bad followership is also present. The leadership compact discusses not just the responsibilities of the leader, but the responsibilities of the follower. Granted, the leader plays the major role in this compact as they are primarily responsible for creating an atmosphere of trust and honesty. Studies have shown that trust is the number one need for successful leadership to exist. Assuming we have this, then the follower plays a crucial role in good leadership. It is the follower’s responsibility to make sure that the leader has the needed information in order to make the best decisions. It is the follower(s) responsibility to address leadership failures and issues. A failure to do so makes them just as bad as the bad leader (Kellerman, 2007).
No matter how much training a leader has in situational models, personality models or any other leadership tools, without training which addresses the Leadership Compact, the leader will have a difficult time at best of being a good leader. Part of the leadership training protocol needs to include training for the follower. Followers need to know that their leaders expect them to do their part; bring issues and information to their attention, regardless of what the information or issue may be. Leaders need to know that their followers have been given these expectations so they are ready and understand why the followers are standing up and giving information. It is not to undermine the leader; it is to make sure they have the required information to make the best decision possible and continue to foster an environment of leadership best practices.
If you are looking to create a successful leadership environment in your organization, don’t forget the vital role the follower plays in this formula.
Without the follower, there is no leader. Without the employee, there is no organization.
Do you feel your organization or you misunderstood this agreement?