Who’s going to Follow the Leader?

Today I had the pleasure of attending the Centre for Army Leadership’s ‘Creating Effective Followship’ conference.  It was an enjoyable and stimulating day of CPD, learning more about this important area of leadership thought which the Army has recently codified within its doctrine.

There is plenty to be read about Followship through the CAL and elsewhere, but here are the points that struck home with me today:

  • There is no leadership without followship.  If no one is following effectively, you are not leading anyone.
  • The principles of good leadership and good followship are practically the same.
  • It is often necessary to be a good leader at the same time as being a good follower, although to different audiences.
  • Good followship is vital for empowerment (or what the military calls ‘mission command’) to be effective.
  • Followship is only the start: the end goal is development of team.
  • Followers must speak up: lives can depend on it.  This is not just true in the military.  The story told at the conference was about the airline industry in the 1980s when fatal incidents occurred because crew members did not speak up to the Captain even when they could see that disaster was looming.  This story is also told by Matthew Syed in Rebel Ideas, his excellent book about cognitive diversity.
  • Not all followers want to be leaders.  Colonel Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam gave his own very personal example of this trait.

It was quite the day and now I will be reflecting further on how I can take these points and the philosophy of followship into my leadership mentoring and coaching conversations.

For those who have not heard it, I do already mention the importance of Followship in my talk about JUST Leading.

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