Followership maturity

One Saturday morning, as we were having our morning tea, spending time together by checking our respective phones, “oh! Did you check our society email chain?” , My better half said in a worried tone. I immediately opened the gmail to see 25 emails in the same chain, which had the subject “vaccination drive at our society”. ‘hmm, must be some thank you emails..why is he mumbling about this’, I opened to read curiosly. A month back, few residents wrote to the management committee to organise vaccination drive, few infact gave comparitive stats about how other society’s MC organized proactively etc. After 3 weeks, While the management committee very thoughtfully were planning to organise one, few suggested to conduct a survey, then MC did the survey. And finally the D day announcement – about the drive ( after getting required govt approvals and working with hospitals) and hardly few of them turned up. Worst part is, they also mentioned why it was wrong of MC to organise on a long weekend. (Uff, ain’t we supposed to be staying home, staying safe). Looking at the whole email chain, I felt disgusting. 5 years back, I was also part of the management committee in the society. All of us who has taken up this responsibility each year are people who have a full time job, who have families and problems as same as other residents. But because we have signed up on this, which is also a leadership commitment to serve the society, we can’t be pressurized and pinpointed. End of the day, we realized, whatever we do, there is gonna be a group who is gonna tell our efforts ain’t great and we should be better.

As we discussed about the experience during our tea, the conversation extended even after breakfast. This pressure on leaders – at work, at politics, at society, at family : while it feels like leaders have an upper hand, it is actually a tough and brave armour they have decided to wear. Being an individual contributor is simple and self satisfactory. you don’t have to worry about other people’s happiness, performance, emotional well-being etc. But leadership is dealing between the dharma and dharmasankata of life – being unbiased, following protocols, looking out for each of them in the team. There are plenty of training and theories and principles on being a “good” leader. Being a leader is also sometimes like you you are the most focused contestant in a Big Boss show.

“All we can do to support management is just being supportive. Each day, there is a mail, suggestion on car parking, suggestion on courier policy, must do laundry and car wash rules, etc etc. Everyone has some idea, suggestion, what management has to do. But when there is an ask for volunteers to support, usually these idea manis switch off. As a resident, the best thing I can do to show my respect to management is comply by their rules”, a very humble neighbour who joined us for lunch shared. Oh yes, we were glued to this conversation.

“There should be something called a followership maturity. We overdo the expectations on leaders and focus on moulding them, where the followers get the freedom of rusted iron, to be poisonous. Why are we not focusing on the basic expectation from followers? So author , tell us what should be the basic rules for followers”, the entire dining table turned towards me. So here is my list of practices that each follower should own up to enable their leader do their job :

  1. Believe rather than judging : The most judged bird is an eagle, the most judged super hero is Batman and the most judged human is a leader. So, instead of immediately judging the leader, you can tune towards believing that they are in a position because they have proved to be capable of.
  2. Focus on the big picture : 2 years back, when I created a habit in the team to spend time on monthly sessions to introspect about themselves, there was a major push back saying, well, we know us, it’s such a waste of time. Today the team share a bond with me as we have discovered our unique brand through those sessions. So, when your leader brings some initiatives or sets a new process, focus the big picture than pushing back. Trust me, leaders will sail through the push back, but it is followership maturity to understand the vision
  3. Clarify than gossip : Once in an organisation, a new leader was suddenly introduced by the management and there were gossips everywhere on what happened to the previous leader, why this person, are they gonna fire everyone, does she understand the current status etc etc. And couple of matured followers set up a call to clarify things that they should know which is important for their job and career growth. It was such an empathetic action from them to the leader.
  4. Don’t be resistant to change : Most of the time, leaders face a tough situation from their team because the team is extremely resistant to the change. A new person, new practices, new ideas, new vision – the word ‘new’ from the leader will be taken as a hate word. And very common experience for leaders when they want to try out on any initiative is “ah, you predecessor tried this, dint work. It is a goof up model, why should we waste our time when we know it’s useless”. This is exactly where followers need to understand while the attempt might not be new, the leader trying this, and his/her style of getting it done is new. So that is worth giving a chance.
  5. Don’t compare with the predecessor : It is almost impossible for us NOT to compare the leader with their predecessor – good or bad, but mostly we pick where they can go wrong. My mother took over as a headmistress and almost everyday the first month, each staff used the statement, “previous H.M will do this, previous H.M will allow us early, previous H.M will arrange this facility” and one day she called everyone for a meeting and said, she is Not the previous H.M. she respects her predecessor in every aspect but she told the staff that she is different and she has her plans for the progress of the team and students. It was worth a talk which opened everyone to see her and not compare each time.

These are just few basic steps that I try to follow when there is a new leader – at work , at apartment, at society . And as a leader, these are also things I expect from my team which will enable me to bring the best together. What are your inputs for followership maturity ?

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