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Formal Checkups

If leaders stumble, courageous followers help to pick them up and repair them. But we support a leader better when we practice preventive medicine.

It is wise to get a physical checkup periodically even though we feel healthy. We look in the mirror daily and know generally that we are well, but a formal medical checkup looks deeper, searching for incipient problems. It uses instruments to measure what our senses can’t readily detect.

It is also wise for leaders to get checkups on how they are serving their organizations. Rarely are mechanisms in place for senior leaders to get performance reviews. Even lower-echelon leaders usually get reviewed by their superior, not by those they serve.

It takes courage for leaders to engage in a checkup process, as they don’t know what it will uncover. Is there serious hidden disease? But just as the fear of cancer or heart disease warrants the periodic medical checkup, so should concern about the corrupting tendencies of power motivate the leadership checkup. When problems with power or relationships are caught early they are highly treatable; left to fester, they may prove deadly.

Various instruments for examination are available in the human resource department or through outside consulting firms. They measure a leader’s own and others’ perceptions of the leader’s behavior. Followers should encourage leaders to use these instruments. Feedback distilled from a wide range of perspectives can serve as the equivalent of sophisticated bio-imaging tests, examining many cross sections of leadership dynamics.

If the leader isn’t accustomed to these types of checkups, the courageous follower makes a strong case for them. If the information gleaned is used sensitively and skillfully, it can save the leader and organization future grief, as does most preventive medicine.

There are many ways to support a leader. Courageous followers use the range of tools at their disposal. Our motivation in each case is our commitment to the common purpose and our regard for the leader.