Musings on the Need to Follow.
May 20, 2017 - 2:36pm
Most of my coaching clients come seeking to refine their leadership skills. They want to lean into their ability to inspire others to reach a destination or outcome. But on my most recent trip to Uluru, (Ayers Rock) Australia, FOLLOWING was the skill we practiced. And I reflected, just as there can be good leaders, there can also be good followers. I am struck that no one has ever come to me seeking to nurture their skills as a follower.
On the hot hike around the base of this most spiritual rock in the centre of the Outback, I was grateful for the firm direction of our guide, who inspired and admonished us to love the land, to be wary of the heat (drink lots of water!) and, most importantly, to follow her lead and directions carefully. Our safety, as well as our respect of the traditional Aborigine lands, depended on it. She was capable and comfortable in her role, keeping us motivated, on schedule, safe and inspired to learn a history and geography that was foreign to everyone.
Our group was full of personalities who were comfortable leaders in their own right. I must admit that our attention and our commitment to follow meandered as we entered into the third hour of our hike - the strain of the exercise took its toll on our fellowship and our follow-ship. I found it took a intentional willingness to join her in her enthusiasm and at times concerted effort and discipline to show interest and keep her pace. It was effortful to follow. We needed to encourage each other to heed her directions while being comfortable NOT giving suggestions or recommendations for alternate routes, speed or outcomes. Together, as a group, we completed the task. Our guide had done what she had intended and led us straight into a love of the land and an experience that would remain a cherished memory. We had allowed her to succeed by being open and willing followers.
Why is it that as a society we don't place value on follow-ship?
When I think of some of the most important discoveries in my life they have involved following. To take a great photo you must follow your gaze, to dance you follow your ear, to love you follow your heart, to decide you must follow your intuition. In each one of those cases, "leadership" only gets in the way.
What do you think? What if we celebrated what it means to follow? What does it look like to to you? I am quite sure it is as demanding a role, with as much accountability and discipline required as leadership.