Leadership of astonishing courage and unquestionable integrity – fully committed to upholding, respecting and protecting our Constitutional principles of social justice, democratic values and fundamental human rights. Leadership that will deliver on the promise even though we are currently in a perilous state, civilisation is on a path to self destruction and where extreme poverty lives side by side with obscene affluence, bad outcomes live side by side with good outcomes, disease lives side by side with wellbeing and competition lives side by side with collaboration. It is self evident that the current economic model is hopelessly outdated where the system does not recognise the creation of any other value except economic value. What is needed now is deep structural transformation to deal decisively with most people’s lived experiences in order to better inform agreements to change outcomes. We must create a much better society where the workforce is treating as family members by companies that are socially minded and environmentally aware. Even though South Africa has been a one-party dominant state since the dawn of democracy in 1994, the share of the vote won by the African National Congress (ANC) has been gradually declining and it has been apparent for a while that it is dropping towards the all-important 50 percent mark. We now hold the world record for the most unequal society, with the highest unemployment, highest SME failure rate and worst educational outcomes.

Leadership presupposes followership – leadership can only occur if there is followership – without followers and following behaviours there would be no leadership!  Followership is the actions of someone in a subordinate role. It can also be considered as a specific set of skills that complement leadership – a role within a hierarchical organisation, a social construct that is integral to the leadership process, or the behaviors engaged in while interacting with leaders in an effort to meet organisational objectives. As such, followership is best defined as an intentional practice on the part of the subordinate to enhance the synergetic interchange between the follower and the leader. In organisations, “leadership is not just done by the leader, and followership is not just done by followers.” This perspective suggests that leadership and followership do not operate on one continuum, with one decreasing while the other increases. Rather, each dimension exists as a discrete dimension, albeit with some shared competencies.

The role of a follower is not a simple one. It doesn’t just mean following directions or blindly accepting everything a leader says. Good followership is characterized by active participation in the pursuit of organisational goals. In many cases, this means working independently, being accountable for your actions, and taking ownership of necessary tasks. The catch is that it’s common for followers to not be recognized for their accomplishments in these areas, even though they are essential to the success of the organization. Although it can feel like a thankless role, many followers take great satisfaction in the work they do and embrace followership. More recently, there has been increasing focus on how followers shape, define and co-create leadership and leaders’ actions and identity, recognising that all individuals, both in senior and more junior positions, move around the leadership ‘triad’ of using leadership, management and followership skills according to the situation, environment or position they find themselves in at any one time. The ‘dance of leadership and followership’ involves being able to step up to take leadership when needed (which may be ‘small “l” leadership’,8 such as leading on a task), to recognise how and when to follow a leader and to acknowledge that leadership may be distributed and rotating, not necessarily vested in one individual.

It is much more about energy which is infinite than power which is finite. Pretty much like a sailboat than a speed boat. It is about a cause that is much greater than oneself. It is not about self but the other-centred. Anybody that feels called upon to lead is a leader. It has nothing to do with one’s title nor corner office nor the C-Suite. Whilst management is about what happens when you are there, leadership is about what happens when you are not. It is when your colleagues choose to follow, not because they have to. When one gets it right, your colleagues will jump over the cliff for you. The link between leadership, management and enterprise performance is widely understood and accepted.  Improving leadership improves management and raises the probabilities of better performance.  That boards often change leaders when enterprises are slipping confirms the importance placed on leadership.

The flip side of leadership is followership.  It stands to reason that if leadership is important to performance, followership must have something to do with it too.  But curiously, followership gets only a small fraction of the airtime that leadership does.

Followership is a straightforward concept.  It is the ability to take direction well, to get in line behind a program, to be part of a team and to deliver on what is expected of you.  It gets a bit of a bad rap!  How well the followers follow is probably just as important to enterprise success as how well the leaders lead. The label “excellent follower” can be a backhanded compliment.  It is not a reputation you necessarily want if you are seeking higher corporate office.  There is something of a stigma to followership skills.  Pity because the practical reality is one does not reach progressively more responsible leadership positions without demonstrating an ability to follow and function effectively in a group.  The fact is that in organizations everybody is both a leader and a follower depending on the circumstances which just adds to the paradox of the followership stigma. Followership problems manifest themselves in a poor work ethic, bad morale, distraction from goals, unsatisfied customers, lost opportunities, high costs, product quality issues and weak competitiveness.  At the extreme, weak leadership and weak followership are two sides of the same coin and the consequence is always the same:  organizational confusion and poor performance.

Good followers, like great leaders have a number of qualities, namely, a  compelling vision, courage, integrity, judgement, work ethic, competence, discretion and an  extraordinary ability to manage their own ego.

Joy is not in things, it is in us!

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