Why Leadership Is Bad For Your Organization
Right from a young age we are trained to be great leaders, leadership is recognized and force fed into our system of thinking. We are told repeatedly that great leaders are the ones that shape the future and make a difference. This same line of thinking follows us throughout our collegiate and work careers. Thus, companies and colleges invest millions and millions of dollars to train employees/students on leadership while bookstores and libraries scramble to cram their shelves with the latest leadership books. But the irony of this all is that leadership actually kills organizations. Because when everyone leads…no one follows…and nothing gets done!
If everyone leads, who follows?
Unfortunately, too many organizations fail to realize this and end up suffering from what I call LEADERSHIP PARALYSIS…a hypothetical situation that occurs when an organization is not able to function because it has too many leaders. You don’t need to search far to find a case of leadership paralysis as it occurs daily around us…it is that manager that gets a rise from ordering people around, but is ultra quick to complain when he is given similar instructions by his superior. It is that soccer team that has 11 captains on the field, all directing and instructing play simultaneously with nobody listening. And the symptom of either situation is normally the same…frustration, failure and confusion!
The solution to this is a drastic shift away from our leadership obsession. This can be done by recognizing outstanding followership just in the same way we recognize outstanding leadership. We should also look to train our employee’s and students on the virtues and importance of following. Our ultimate goal would be to develop persons who can follow and lead simultaneously. This multi-dimensional emphasis on training will help create inspiring stories such as that told by author John Miller in his book THE QUESTION BEHIND THE QUESTION…
On a beautiful day, John stopped by the Rock Bottom restaurant in Minneapolis for a quick lunch. He had just sat down when a young man carrying a tray full of dirty dishes hurried past him on his way to the kitchen. But noticing John from the corner of his eye he stopped and asked “Sir, have you been helped?” John replied “no, I haven’t. but all I really want is a salad and a couple of rolls.”
“I can get you that, sir. What would you like to drink?”
“I’ll have a Diet Coke, please.” John replied.
But unfortunately, the restaurant did not sell Diet Coke…so John opted for water with lemons instead.
The waiter ran off and moments later arrived with the salad, rolls and water. He quickly ran off again…but suddenly out of nowhere came back with a large twenty-ounce bottle of DIET COKE! John was pleasantly surprised and obviously confused by this gesture, especially since the restaurant did not sell diet coke. So he got the waiters attention and waved him over.
“Excuse me, I thought you didn’t sell Coke,” John said.
“That’s right, sir, we don’t.”
“Well, where did this come from?”
“The grocery store around the corner, sir.”
John was taken aback.
“Who paid for it?” he asked.
“I did sir; just a dollar.”
“You’ve been awfully busy. How did you have time to go get it?” Smiling he replied
“I didn’t, sir. I sent my Manager!”
He sent his Manager! Unbelievable! How many managers would actually carry out a task like that for their staff? And more importantly, how many managers, organizations or institutions create an environment where employees can approach them with such a request? The answer is “too few.”
What happens instead is that people are intimidated by leaders. Afraid to correct them, afraid to come to them for advise and afraid to make suggestions to them. This fear is created by the same problem “An obsessive addiction to Leadership.” This addiction thus leads to the creation of leaders who have no real life understanding of what it is to follow. So they lead in one direction…from the top-down. They view people beneath them as trivial subjects created to execute their many demands. And this mono-directional style leadership causes a push back from followers and ends up creating friction between leaders and followers within an organization. The inability to lead in dual directions is developed out of a failure to recognize followership as a worthy role.
Unfortunately, nothing can get done by leadership alone, it takes a strong and motivated group of followers to get things done. And when followers see leaders serving and respecting them, they in turn will begin serving and respecting leaders creating a cycle of efficiency where organizations can function at an optimal level. So let’s fight to make followership a real word, lets fight for the emphasis of servitude in our schools, let’s fight to re-structure our Leadership training programs to include followership, let’s fight to fill our libraries with books on followership and above all, lets us fight to stop our addiction to Leadership. When we do so, we would begin to see the friction between leaders and followers slowly disappear and in return our organizations excel!
Ofili is an award winning motivational speaker, author, life coach and entrepreneur who blogs about life, success and entrepreneurial excellence. Follow him on twitter , facebook or subscribe to his blog for more FREE success TIPS!”