All entries for Sunday 19 February 2012

February 19, 2012

Followership Challenge

I am tempted to term Friday’s leadership challenge exercise as a “one eyed man leading a group of blind people”. How easy a task is it? How difficult can it be? What challenges does the one eyed man face while leading? How does the blind group believe they are being led well? These were the questions that came to mind when I was reflecting on Friday’s session.

The setting started with only the leader having an understanding of what the task ahead was. The first challenge manifested while the leader was trying to relay the task to the followers. For us the followers, it wasn’t any easier trying to understand the task through our leader. This setting ignited my thought process and I felt we all should have been briefed at the same time. This would obviously eliminate the problem that arose while the leader was relaying the task to the followers. On the other hand, I asked myself what the role of a leader would be should that be the case.

How then do we eliminate this followership challenge? My take on this issue is striking a balance on information dissemination. A situation where all followers are privy to certain information which would reduce how much information the leader has to pass down the ladder. This not only reduces communication challenges, it also saves time and is bound to increase effectiveness. Should companies buy this idea, I believe that the results would gradually eliminate followership challenges.

The “Superman” Leader

Leader as the name implies serves as a guide or directing head of a body of people. This could be the reason why many followers expect their leaders to be “supermen or women”. Simply put, many of us tend to see our leaders as the drivng force in every task or project. We simply say, after all what are the leaders there for if they can’t be excellent in all aspects of leadership.

During the hotel simulation exercise, I was initially made to act as a deputy leader; my job was so straight forward. It was a mere observation of the actions of both the leader and the followers. This entailed noting down how the leader dished out instructions and how such instructions were received by the followers. Little did I know that this was a temporary appointment. It however dawned on me when I was shipped off to a different team after two quarters. On getting to the new team, I was appointed leader. For me, it seemed pretty difficult because I was expected to deliver results immediately. Difficult because it was a team that I joined half way without any understanding of its workings, tasks, challenges and the already existing leader-follower relationship. I resorted to asking lots of questions in order to situate myself into the company’s atmosphere. This was meant to reveal a perfect understanding of the company’s expectations before I commence with my decision making process. I however observed that some team members were not quite happy with my approach. They expected that as a leader I must possess all the magical tools to start directing the affairs of a company I am alien to.

This brings me back to my earlier thought; are leaders meant to be supermen or women who possess solutions to every issue that arises especially when such issues were not initially within their purview?

February 2012

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