Author: Chris Woodgate, ISAS Officer
The old adage that you are only a leader if someone is following you is as true today as it has always been. I would like to ask two questions around this topic:
How do you tell if your team are following your lead? Remember the childhood game where you played ‘following the leader’ and all your friends playing the game do all the daft things they see you doing? (If I remember rightly the more weird the actions better the game!)
That may be truer than we think; are any of the behaviours you exhibit exhibited by the teams that work for you and if they do are you able to recognise them?
What is it you would like them to emulate about your style? Your work ethic? Your integrity or honesty?
Are you fair in the way you deal with your staff/teams, consistent in your approach or do your teams ‘take the emotional temperature’ before approaching you? Do you see setbacks as the ‘end of the world’ or as a challenge to be met?
Some of this will be evidenced in how you follow others; your followers will be watching. How do you respond to criticism, unrealistic targets, and unfair behaviour from those who lead you?
As leaders we can be as innovative, charismatic and inspirational as possible, but what your teams see is how you behave in difficult circumstances as well as when life is going well.
Humility is one the most important aspects for me.
I don’t think I ever had an original thought in my life; rather almost everything I have achieved clinically and in management has been with the support, help and insights of others who have inspired me to adapt, change and use what they have given.
I can only hope I helped to instil that into those who work alongside me. I will admit to inconsistencies, I am not perfect, but through it all I tried to acknowledge those who really did have the good ideas.
What is integrity?
The online Oxford Dictionary says: ‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.’
For me it is being true to what I believe; that the patient is at the centre (the reason I have a job), quality is vital, and care for those who work alongside me (trying to empower them to be the best they can be).
Life brushes up against this all the time, and as a manager you sometimes have to take the long term view rather than the short term; I am sure there are many who worked with me would argue that some the actions I have taken were for their good.
I am also aware that you are living that balancing act between your team/s and the organisational needs. How you follow those difficult instructions from above will set the agenda for your teams?
I think it is important to remember that our first allegiance as followers within higher management is not to an individual, but to our patients and our organisation. They will both be there long after the individual has gone.
Dare I ask if you are instilling that ethic into your teams? Are you asking them to follow you to the exception of everything else, or are you leading in empowerment where you are open to challenge and change from those you lead?
Leadership can be difficult but it is a lot more difficult if no one is following.
The lack of good followership can result in bad morale, distraction from goals, poor patient care, lost opportunities, high costs, and quality issues. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
This piece was inspired by John S. McCallum FOLLOWERSHIP: THE OTHER SIDE OF LEADERSHIP. IVEY Business Journal: Issues: September / October 2013.
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