Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Respect Empowers Follower and Leader

Respecting was the idea that helped me understand the truth behind my contention, to the surprise of a colleague, that "the decision to follow is an act of leadership." It always appeared quite clear to me that, unless I am coerced, if I follow someone I do so because I respect them in one way or another. I suppose I always recognized that the reverse is also true but that exchange started an extensive inquiry leading to A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation) .

If as a leader I do not respect those who follow me they will become disinclined to do so. The same can be said at a personal level - unless I respect myself I will be stalled. For example, I would fail to lead and make no decisions and even if I did, I would fail to follow through. I confess that I have some evidence of both these phenomena in my own experience.

In this way respecting becomes possibly the most important leadership practice. It is mutual respect that permits us to lead or follow, whether in the fluidity of a collaboration or the relative stability of an organization. Collaboration and organization are only possible with respect. In both we show respect to those who lead and follow and we respect our own capacities to do the same.

This linking of the value lead and the value follow by the practice of respecting means that followership and leadership are implicit in each other (yin and yang) and the value follow must be an integral part of a leadership model. It means, additionally, that there is no such thing as a leader or a follower. Each of us is both, we are leader-followers as I proudly proclaim in the title of this blog.

(The image is of one edge and two sides of a tetrahedral model)

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