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No Leadership without Good Followers

Good Followers

I recently consulted with a San Francisco Bay Area multi-billion dollar financial institution who wanted to create a succession plan for their retiring CEO. We created a Competency Model for the CEO position, and I presented it to the company’s Board of Directors at their semi-annual retreat.

One of the competencies was servant leadership which reflected the core values of this fast growing company. I was the executive coach for two of the vice presidents, and potential successors focusing on emotional intelligence-based leadership development and inspiring committed followers.

There is no leadership without followership. Good leadership requires good followers, who may be passive or active (depending on context). But followers have generally been slow to embrace empowerment and participate in the leader/follower tango.

Flawed Followers

Perhaps today’s leaders can get away with various and sundry peccadilloes because their followers fail to demand accountability.

“Leading in America has never been easy,” writes Barbara Kellerman in The End of Leadership. “But now it is more difficult than ever—not only because we have too many bad leaders, but because we have too many bad followers.”

Many of us are too timid, disengaged or alienated to speak up, making it easy for corporate leaders to do what they want—and what’s best for their bank accounts.

The leadership-development industry has become huge, with $50 billion a year spent on corporate training. Shouldn’t the curriculum include elements of followership? Everyone, including the CEO, has to answer to someone, be it a board, stockholders or a senior team.

What Followers Can Do

If bad leaders are to be stopped or slowed, followers must play a bigger part.

But many followers consider the price of intervention to be too high. There are real benefits for going along, along with real costs and risks for not going along. We often choose to mind our own business. Nevertheless, incompetent and unethical leaders cannot function without followers.

Followers can strengthen their ability to resist bad leaders by observing these guidelines:

  • Empower yourself.
  • Be loyal to the whole, not to any one person.
  • Be skeptical; leaders are not gods
  • Find allies; develop your own sources of information.
  • Be a watchdog (especially if the board seems too compliant).
  • Take collective action (even on a modest scale, such as assembling a small group to talk to the boss).
  • Hold leaders accountable; use checks and balances already in place.

Luckily, more followers are stepping up to the plate, demonstrating a willingness to share responsibilities, power, authority and influence. They know that once bad leaders are entrenched, they seldom change or quit of their own volition. It’s up to us to insist on change—or an early exit.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to help followers become more effective? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to inspire followers? Enlightened leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can is “Does our company support and develop fully engaged followers?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their peak performance leadership development program.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help followers engage leaders.You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

Working Resources is a  Strategic Talent Management and Executive Coaching Firm Helping Innovative Companies and Law Firms Assess, Select, Coach, Engage  and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Executive Coaching; Leadership Development; Performance-Based Interviewing; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; Career Coaching and Leadership & Team Building Retreats

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Trusted Advisor to Senior Leadership Teams

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