This is the introductory section of a series which I will be releasing here as time permits me. It encompasses the public perception of who is a leader; and the nitty-gritty that really makes someone to be call and addressed as leader or great leader. I was natural motivated to delve into this series due to recent global events ranging from; the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the global financial crisis that was prevalence in 2008; to reflects on the events leading to Arab spring that shook the world to its foundation in 2010; vis-a-vis the unjustifiable invasion of the then peaceful Libya and ousting of late Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi whose multiplying effect is creating unrest in Libya today.
Let us not forget about global terrorism, the civil war in Syria that has created humanitarian issues culminating the evacuation of immigrants to seeks refuge in divers part of the world; and the unending Palestinian and Israeli war just to mentioned a few. While there are increase rate of unemployment globally, especially the third world, poverty and starvation are also on the rise. On the contrary too, there are various none-for profit charitable organisation springing up, raising funds for the needy and motherless babies. The rampant increase of new diseases which has drastically reduce life expectancy to the minimum and so many more. World leaders are holding series of meeting to combat this and that, yet the above malaise is on the increase. My question is; are those mentioned problems natural or man-made? Or does the above problems facing humanity today unsolvable?
Since time immemorial various academic scholars and intellectuals has sprung up to discuss leadership topics which includes books, magazines, blogs, conferences, and even graduate degrees from major universities. Apparently, there is vast market and an increasing yearning from readers to know something new. Why? Because almost in all sphere of human endeavour, problems upon problems crop up which defines lack of effective leadership direction as the cause and those who paraded themselves as leader are ill equip to actually lead by example. In an attempt to providing answers to the above, we are exposed to trace the origin to two known variables which are: the ruling-class and the following-class. While the former is on the offensive, the latter is on the receiving end. In an attempt to try to providing much needed answer to the above, I would want us to understand the concept of leadership and followership.
WHAT IS LEADERSHIP?
In my quest to have some working knowledge on the subject, I peruse a Harvard Business Review titled: “Understanding Leadership” by W.C.H. Prentice. I was able to grasp some vital information rejecting previous notion which viewed leadership as the exercise of power and force or the possession of extraordinary analytical skill. Rather, Prentice defined leadership as “the accomplishment of a goal through the direction of human assistants” and a successful leader as one who can understand people’s motivations and enlist employee participation in a way that marries individual needs and interests to the group’s purpose. He advocated for democratic leadership style; which consists of the leader sharing the decision-making abilities with group members by promoting the interests of the group members and by practicing social equality. Prentice’s observations on how leaders can motivate employees to support the organisation’s goals are timeless, and they were remarkably prescient.
The challenges face in analysing leadership is due to the fact that the analyst may not have vast knowledge on the subject or does not study leadership at all. They tend to focus on; eloquent speaking, popularity, power, showmanship or wisdom in long-term planning. Although some leader have some of these traits, but not of the essence of leadership.
Leadership is the execution of a goal through the direction of human assistants. Someone who is able to successfully utilise their human and materials resources to achieve a set objectives is a leader. You become a great leader when you are able to get a tasks accomplished day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year at different circumstances.
Prentice opines that such person; “may not possess or display power; force or the threat of harm may never enter into their dealings. They may not be popular; their followers may never do what they wish out of love or admiration for the leader. They may not ever be a colorful person; they may never use memorable devices to dramatize the purposes of his group or to focus attention on their leadership. As for the important matter of setting goals, they may actually be a man of little influence, or even of little skill; as a leader they may merely carry out the plans of others”.
WHAT IS FOLLOWERSHIP?
It is rare for many of us to step into any type of leadership position, formal or informal without demonstrating that we can be and are good followers. There is the general perception that focuses too much emphasis on the leader, forgetting the fact that leaders in themselves cannot achieve anything in isolation without the support and cooperation of the followers. In practice, follower has to be in place for leader to assert and perform their leadership functions. In the discussion of leadership, often the leader is the star. However, one cannot be a leader without followers and some would argue that followers are just as essential as leaders. To reap the benefits of successful teamwork, we must understand why and how people follow.
In essence, Kristina G. Ricketts, defines followership as “the willingness to go along with a leader”. While Wikipedia, refers followership; to a role held by certain individuals in an organisation, team, or group. Specifically, it is the capacity of an individual to actively follow a leader. Followership is the reciprocal social process of leadership. The study of followership (part of the emerging study of Leadership psychology) is integral to a better understanding of leadership, as the success and failure of groups, organizations, and teams is not only dependent on how well a leader can lead, but also on how well the followers can follow.
None of us; you and I can be a good leader unless; we are or can be a good follower. The characteristics of each position are very similar. There are people who may be good followers who do not make good leaders or even want to be leaders, but there are no good leaders who are not good followers. Sure, there are some people who think they are too good to be a follower, but I bet their parade has only one person in it: themselves. The skills and attributes like; Personality, Communications skills, Cooperative/team player, Dedicated/loyal, Persistent/patient, Perceptive, Honesty/Trustworthy, Praise and compliments that make for good followers also make for good leaders.
In our next series, we shall be looking into how dynamic followership can influence effective leadership. Your opinion and feedback is expected on the comment column. Do you like the piece? Kindly share.