“Leadership” & “Followership” are 2 Sides of the Same Coin

I recently attended a local Chamber of Commerce function and had the pleasure of listening to Dr Peter Sun from the University of Waikato speak about ‘Follower-ship’. What is ‘follower-ship’? all of us in the audience were thinking. Dr Sun went on to explain that nearly everyone who is a leader is also a follower in some way, shape or form, either in their business circles or at home. I thought, “Ok – I get it. So, now what?”

Here’s the interesting bit that perked my ears up: there are 4 types of followers, and every leader needs to be able to not only identify which types his or her team members are but also what type of follower they are themselves. Here they are:

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The Sheep – this type of follower is not a critical thinker, is relatively passive, tends to have a low sense of responsibility, and is motivated by interests OUTSIDE the organisation.
The “Yes” Person – these folks are not generally critical thinkers, but are ACTIVE and tend to drive the boss’ agenda. They’ll do anything to curry the favour of the boss.
The Alienated – this type of follower IS a critical thinker, they ARE vocal but they are passive – they will not participate in implementing changes. They will generally be very happy to tell the leader what they think is wrong or what they think should be done about it, but will rarely pitch in and help implement a solution.
The Effectives – these folks ARE critical thinkers, they are VOCAL and they are ACTIVE. Meaning, they are not afraid to speak up and suggest areas for improvement, possible solutions AND will head up a committee to implement positive change. They are always looking for better ways to do things.

Do you recognise yourself and your team members in this list? I do. One key point that Dr Sun shared is that, as a leader, you must not only know which type of follower your team members are, but how to best utilise them.

For instance, if you have a new project that you are implementing, Dr Sun suggested consulting with the Alienated first, so that you can get an unvarnished opinion of your plan (they’ll gladly play Devil’s Advocate).  *By the way, this is a great way to attempt to bring an Alienated person back into the fold, as it were. People become Alienated when they don’t feel heard. (Lesson: if a team member brings you an idea, LISTEN and provide FEEDBACK so that they feel heard, even if the idea cannot be implemented!) Next, Dr Sun suggested you need to onboard your Yes people and Sheep in order to carry out a plan effectively. The interesting bit was to include the Effectives last. His reasoning behind this was because Effectives can slow down the progress of a project by constantly coming up with ‘tweaks’ to the plan and different ways to execute.

The conclusions I drew from this discussion? This concept not only works for understanding your team members, but it also works for identifying how to deal with your clients and prospects.

If you are presenting a solution to a “YES” person, they may quickly go along with your solution because they want to please you but may not have staying power or loyalty.

If your client is an EFFECTIVE, they may want to be able to COLLABORATE with you on a solution that best fits their needs.

An ALIENATED person may have a negative view of your solution and you will then need to anticipate all the objections they may come up with as to why your solution won’t work.

I hope my notes from this session with Dr Sun have been helpful to you in some way. I know I’ll think twice about what type of a ‘follower’ I am and how that impacts the people around me!

Feel free to share YOUR takeaways below in the comments section.

*All photos are ‘labelled for reuse’.

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