Pragmatic Optimism #4: Good leadership through the lens of good followership


Transcript

Hey all, I'm back with another chirpy video on pragmatic optimism, a video in which I take a look at something that's happening in the world of the pandemic, and just reflect on some optimistic takeaways for us as individuals, as communities, and as businesses.

So first things first, it looks like that we have started to see a lifting of some restrictions. So at the very least, we have that to be optimistic about. Compared to other countries around the world, I think it's fair to say that Australia has done relatively well in terms of smashing down that curve.

In my very first video on pragmatic optimism, which was four weeks ago now, I reflected on this idea that if we are presented with a clear message that is authentic, objective, and relevant, people can put aside personal differences and come together as a community and abide by the lockdown for the greater good.

Today, I want to reflect on two of the other pillars that I think have played an important role in our collective agreement to self isolate: good leadership and good followership, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as the willingness and capacity to follow a leader.

In particular, I thought it would be interesting to look at good leadership through the lens of good followership, especially as there's very little focus that's often given to the latter. How little? Here's a fun fact. If you Google leadership you will get 3.25 billion results. If you Google followership, you will get 1.7 million results, a mere 0.05%.

And how fascinating is that? Leadership and followership are opposite sides of the same coin and there needs to be a good connection between the two for any sort of effective change or outcome to take place. I think it's quite natural that we focus on leaders because they're often the ones that are in the spotlight, and they're charged with making the big tough decision. But even the best leaders cannot achieve change if they don't have the support of good followers.

Take the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. She's been hailed as one of the most effective leaders during the pandemic. There's stacks of think pieces about why she's an amazing leader and all the amazing traits that she exhibits. But she is governing a nation of five million New Zealanders. And let me be absolutely clear, I am taking nothing away from Jacinta as a leader because she is an incredible leader. But I also think it is important to acknowledge that New Zealanders, as a whole, are also incredible followers.

So what exactly is good followership? Well, like I said, unfortunately, there really isn't much written about this. Many of the articles I came across often spoke of followers in the third person. "As leaders, what do they need to do for us?" But from what I scraped together, here are some of the characteristics that I think are important as a good follower:

  • We do our best to understand the vision
  • We empathise with our leaders and with each other
  • We put trust in our leaders to do the right things
  • We collaborate and work with each other
  • And finally, we take responsibility in our own actions and work hard towards achieving the vision

And if we look at leadership through the lens of followership, it's interesting to flip some of these traits around:

  • A leader must be able to put forth a clear vision and message
  • A leader must be able to empathise with followers and with each other
  • A leader must be worthy of trust
  • A leader must be collaborative
  • And a leader must be responsible as well.

We know that rebuilding our society and economy is going to take one of the biggest team efforts in the world. And when I put on my pragmatic optimism hat, I'm inspired by our leadership-followership balance in Australia.

I do think that as followers, by and large, we have created a good environment for our leaders to be able to effectively lead. And then in return, our leaders have also demonstrated, by and large, the ability to effectively lead.

And so as we slowly come out of lockdown, my biggest takeaway for the future is this: As followers, we have vitally important roles to play in ensuring that our recovery is strong and sustainable. And I don't mean that just across the country, but also within the businesses and the communities that we're a part of. We must be responsible, we must be collaborative, and we must also be able to empathise with our leaders and create an environment in which they can effectively lead.

And as leaders, it's just as important for us to be able to repay that faith and step up to the plate. We must also be responsible, collaborative, transparent, and we must be empathetic towards our followers who have put their faith in us. We must be worthy of trust and we must be effective as leaders.

So that's me for this week. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. In particular, what are you doing to be a good follower? What are you doing to be a good leader?

As always, stay safe, stay upbeat, and I'll see you next week.

Hey all, I'm back with another chirpy video on pragmatic optimism, a video in which I take a look at something that's happening in the world of the pandemic, and just reflect on some optimistic takeaways for us as individuals, as communities, and as businesses.

So first things first, it looks like that we have started to see a lifting of some restrictions. So at the very least, we have that to be optimistic about. Compared to other countries around the world, I think it's fair to say that Australia has done relatively well in terms of smashing down that curve.

In my very first video on pragmatic optimism, which was four weeks ago now, I reflected on this idea that if we are presented with a clear message that is authentic, objective, and relevant, people can put aside personal differences and come together as a community and abide by the lockdown for the greater good.

Today, I want to reflect on two of the other pillars that I think have played an important role in our collective agreement to self isolate: good leadership and good followership, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as the willingness and capacity to follow a leader.

In particular, I thought it would be interesting to look at good leadership through the lens of good followership, especially as there's very little focus that's often given to the latter. How little? Here's a fun fact. If you Google leadership you will get 3.25 billion results. If you Google followership, you will get 1.7 million results, a mere 0.05%.

And how fascinating is that? Leadership and followership are opposite sides of the same coin and there needs to be a good connection between the two for any sort of effective change or outcome to take place. I think it's quite natural that we focus on leaders because they're often the ones that are in the spotlight, and they're charged with making the big tough decision. But even the best leaders cannot achieve change if they don't have the support of good followers.

Take the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. She's been hailed as one of the most effective leaders during the pandemic. There's stacks of think pieces about why she's an amazing leader and all the amazing traits that she exhibits. But she is governing a nation of five million New Zealanders. And let me be absolutely clear, I am taking nothing away from Jacinta as a leader because she is an incredible leader. But I also think it is important to acknowledge that New Zealanders, as a whole, are also incredible followers.

So what exactly is good followership? Well, like I said, unfortunately, there really isn't much written about this. Many of the articles I came across often spoke of followers in the third person. "As leaders, what do they need to do for us?" But from what I scraped together, here are some of the characteristics that I think are important as a good follower:

  • We do our best to understand the vision
  • We empathise with our leaders and with each other
  • We put trust in our leaders to do the right things
  • We collaborate and work with each other
  • And finally, we take responsibility in our own actions and work hard towards achieving the vision

And if we look at leadership through the lens of followership, it's interesting to flip some of these traits around:

  • A leader must be able to put forth a clear vision and message
  • A leader must be able to empathise with followers and with each other
  • A leader must be worthy of trust
  • A leader must be collaborative
  • And a leader must be responsible as well.

We know that rebuilding our society and economy is going to take one of the biggest team efforts in the world. And when I put on my pragmatic optimism hat, I'm inspired by our leadership-followership balance in Australia.

I do think that as followers, by and large, we have created a good environment for our leaders to be able to effectively lead. And then in return, our leaders have also demonstrated, by and large, the ability to effectively lead.