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For leadership to function properly, your followers need power too

August 14, 2017
Borderless Leadership

Sometimes, leaders bear more responsibility than they want to because they expect to make all of the strategic decisions and take on all of the risks.

But this isn’t always necessary, especially when other people down the corporate hierarchy are ready to offer experienced help. I always wonder if companies with shocking bankruptcy stories like Lehman Brothers and Enron could have avoided their downfall had they empowered more people down the line.

Executive coaches have a responsibility to help leaders realize they need to give up some of their decision-making power to their followers. We, as coaches, should question the power distribution within the hierarchy of any corporation to ensure it works in favor of the longevity of the business. Right now, figures prove that we mostly focus on employees in leadership rather than followership positions. Executive coaching has hit an average of 63% purely for top-line and senior managers globally. So what does that leave for the masses, the followers?

There are two main internal, invisible powers in a corporation:

1. The power of authority (leaders): This is a natural right for people at the top of the corporate ladder. They have a say on many decisions that will affect the lifetime of the business and each employee in the organization.

2. The power of majority (followers): This is the power of the people. Although highly underestimated, this power does, in fact, have a huge indirect influence on a business. When the masses are ignored or belittled, they react together. They may not perform their best, waste time and resources, lash out on one another, or even go on strike. Your clients can sense it too. They could end up giving angry feedback because they claim they weren’t appreciated by the corporation. When leadership doesn’t kick in with followership, a lack of satisfaction emerges and gets transmitted all the way down the line.

Leaders should avoid monopolizing their decisions through their authority-making power. Company policies shouldn’t merely serve the purpose of the leader, especially if it goes against the best interest of the business. For example, policies shouldn’t allow for limited meeting points to gather feedback from subordinates about their leaders or build a system that reprimands voicing of group think. Leaders need the loyalty and followership of their subordinates. They are the ones who will expand their vision to truly make the business thrive. Remember: Leaders are not gods, they are only people who need other people.

Deep down in your heart, you must truly believe that if you give power to the masses — allow them to vote on their leaders and long-term business decisions — you’ll get the outcome you want. Before you hire a new executive, let your people approve the decision. Same when you allow them to demote a boss who is not fit for a leadership role. Enlist their help to replace him/her with a competent successor. Both ways, you guarantee you have satisfied the masses, who need to approve of the leader they are following before they can give their all.

Here are some tips on how to make a leader/follower relationship work:

  • Define “followership” in your organization.
  • Promote the importance and power of followership. Direct it to middle management down.
  • Assess if employees are natural leaders or followers.
  • Allow meetings between business owners and followers on a quarterly basis at least.
  • Create anonymous voting systems for employees to vote for or against the leaders in their company.
  • Allow followers to contribute in board of directors meetings (even if this is done virtually).
  • Have followers form change-control committees based on their technical expertise. They will be entitled to enforce emergency change at any point in time.
  • Circulate a transparent weekly memo with news updates to be distributed across all levels.
  • Externalize training/coaching and allow coaches direct contact with top-level managers and business owners when necessary.
  • Protect the privacy of people feedback by meeting 1-on-1 and signing a propriety agreement.
  • Immediately promote and embed succession planning systems to make it easy to replace a leader expelled by the system for not supporting his/her followers.

In the end, coaches need to do whatever it takes to bring awareness to followership and view it as the true key to the continuity of any business. Pump up the egos of your followers, making them proud of who they are and what they do, and give them a bit more of what they love: power.

By Doaa Darwish

Source: Forbes

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