It’s the third week, and our team is in motion. By Thursday, our team has had four meetings to discuss potential strategy, objectives, and to define what our roles should entail - at least in a general sense (obviously the weekly decisions facing each team member will be dynamic so to define them too specifically may be stifling). Typically I strive to put myself in positions which give me the capacity to act as a leader, but given my self-doubt after initial troubles with MikesBikes, I decided to apply for followership roles. However, there was still unsteadiness in my mind. If I am a ‘just’ a follower, will I still be able to contribute as effectively to the team if I were to be leader, or CEO?
When thinking of a leader, connotations of importance, superior intelligence, and strength all run through my mind. So if I were a follower, does this mean that my traits are less than these? Perhaps it is ego that makes me feel slightly uneasy in a followership position. But as Kelley points out, everyone at some point will have to operate in a followership capacity at some point, and being a follower is not a reflection of intelligence or strength (1988). The most effective followers, as argued by Kelley (1988), possess the ability to critically think, are relatively independent and are active in their roles and that these traits also over-lap with traits of leaders
As I have learned in the first round of team-based MikesBikes, effective followership is just as vital as leadership to the success of the team or business. In our team, we have used a recipe of ‘socialized-power’, which includes decisions made by consensus and high levels of personal responsibility, where 'followers' still have equal accountability towards achieving specified goals, and this has resulted in short-term success (Fontaine, Malloy, & Spreier, 2006). This is highlighted by the significant increase to our shareholder value (close to a 19% increase), and achieving a higher market share than any of our competitors, something i feel my efforts in a followership role has contributed to.
Therefore, I can see first-hand that this recipe can work towards team and organizational success, with this recipe including effective followership (which has been previously defined in this reflection). I can also see effective followership is equally effective in achieving successful as leadership. As well as using these lessons throughout the rest of the MikesBikes process, I will also take these lessons and apply them to workplace where it is probable that I will find myself in leadership and followership roles. As a leader I will act in a capacity that recognizes the importance of followers. To me this would look like followers having high levels of autonomy where applicable, and sharing responsibility for achieving goals equally. As a follower, I will strive to be able to think critically about issues at hand and be active rather than passive in achieving specified team goals. To me the difference between active and passive is that when I reach a target set for me or at least a target that I have agreed upon, it will not mean my work and efforts will stop there.
On a personal level, I am no longer as concerned with what role I play, whether it is leader or follower, as long as the capacity I am working in can still effectively contribute to the success of the team.
Kelley, R. E. (1988). In praise of followers. Harvard Business Review, 66(6), 142--148
Spreier, S. W., Fontaine, M. H., & Malloy, R. L. (2006). Leadership run amok. Harvard Business Review, 84(6), 72--82