The stereotypical ‘great’ leader, the leader we all (allegedly) want to serve under is strong, decisive, determined, clever, insightful, sensitive, charismatic, full of energy etc. etc. (He or she probably also has perfect teeth, a great tan, fantastic dress sense and is drop-dead gorgeous too, but these are the optional extras not the key attributes!)
But if this leader is so perfect, as a follower I’m presented with a couple of problems:
Firstly, how can I possibly aspire to be such a paragon of virtue? I tell rubbish jokes, am more than a little shy, have to battle against laziness and (here’s a confession) sometimes get things very wrong! (I’m not going to make any comparison in relation to personal appearance, - read into that what you will!)
This image of great leadership is so removed from me that he or she may as well be from a different planet. I’m never going to be like that, so I may as well stop trying and crawl back to where I belong!
Secondly, even if I choose to stay working hard for my fantastic leader, what is it that I can contribute? S/he’s better than me at everything, doesn’t need my advice or support, doesn’t need me to take up the running when s/he’s plain tired or fed-up. What is there to motivate me in just doing what I’m told? Where’s my autonomy? Where’s my creativity? Where’s my sense that I’m contributing something special?
Any decent leader must give time to thinking about the followers. Whether you’re thinking about Anita Roddick, Alex Ferguson, Diasaku Ikeda or Superman, the same applies:
- How do I retain the enthusiasm and active commitment of my people?
- How do I ensure I don’t inadvertently create an over-dependence?
- How do I nurture leaders at all levels in my organisation?
- How do I ensure the organisation will survive and thrive after I’m gone?
Oh and another thing, - please lets not pretend to be the perfect leader. If we succeed we alienate everyone and if we fail we look foolish - and still alienate everyone!