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Building Relationships with Leaders

In the final analysis, a follower’s potential for influencing a leader will depend on the quality of relationship that has been developed between them. There is a certain paradox in building such relationships. On the one hand, taking care to […]

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 […]

Conflict Between Leaders

There is an African proverb: “When elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.” When pursuing an organization’s purpose, conflict will naturally occur. If managed well it can be productive. Conflict can also occur around ego issues, thinly masked in […]

When the Leader is Ill

The stress of leadership is high. It takes a physical as well as psychological toll. Drug or alcohol addiction is particularly problematic, but ulcers, hypertension, or migraine headaches can also interfere with a leader’s performance or be aggravated by pressures […]

Managing Crises

We often hear that a leader’s job in a crisis is to keep the environment calm enough so that people can get their work done. Followers also have this responsibility—to be productive and supportive while a path is charted through […]

Encouraging Peer Relations

No matter how healthy the relationship between a leader and followers, it is not a substitute for a leader’s relationships with peers. Even in a relaxed leader-follower relationship there is always some tendency to maintain a little distance, a distinction […]

Avoiding Insularity

There is a danger that the very success of the leader-follower relationship may weaken a leader. Leaders who become comfortable with their closest followers may begin to rely only on them for information, counsel, and feedback. Insularity occurs, and both […]

Knowing When You Don’t Know

Followers can experience enormous psychological pressure to look good around a leader and provide answers to questions “off the cuff.” Our culture values the expert who can spout off opinions more than the sage who contemplates. Courageous followers regard the […]

Presenting Options

Even the most creative leaders appreciate it when others present them with options for handling situations. The options followers generate often circumscribe the range of actions a leader contemplates. The quality of those options makes a huge difference to the […]

Focusing the Creative Leader

A creative leader is a fount of ideas. This is of great value to an organization. But if followers attempt to indiscriminately implement all of a prolific leader’s ideas, focus will be lost and the leader and organization may become […]

Defining a Leader Publicly

In many activities, an organization’s supporters and adversaries form their opinion of the organization from the perception they have of its leaders. If the leader has an image that commands attention and respect, the organization is in a stronger position […]

Acting in the Leader’s Name

When we are a close aide to a leader, our acts are often perceived as extensions of the leader’s values and intentions. In organizations in which the leader is focused on strategic and external priorities, we may become the primary […]

Buffering Others From a Leader

There is often such deference paid to authority that the slightest comment made by a leader is taken literally. Leaders can be mortified to find an off-the-cuff comment they made was construed to be “policy,” a one-time solution to a […]

Defending the Leader

It is easy for people inside or outside of the organization to target a leader because the leader is visible and represents the organization and its authority. Sometimes there is a lot of behind-the-back complaining about a leader. While the […]

Buffering a Leader

Great leaders face great challenges. They often encounter relentless opposition while seeking a path that will achieve their organization’s purpose. Read the biographies of Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Ghandi and you will find years of patience-wearing struggle […]

The Responsibilities of Gatekeeping

Followers who control the access of other followers to a leader have the responsibility to use this power fairly. The power of proximity to power is itself intoxicating and can inflate egos. Gatekeepers need to guard against becoming arrogant and […]

Acquiring Access

Obtaining the right amount of access to a leader requires striking a delicate balance. Followers must have or negotiate a certain degree of access to support a leader and perform their roles. But followers often desire more access than a […]

Organizing Communication Processes

Appropriate organization is necessary to achieve the common purpose and to support the leader. From the most complex society right down to the individual cell, all life must organize itself. Higher life organizes itself around a vision, values, and goals. […]

Conserving a Leader’s Energy

Leaders occupy positions of high visibility and are often buffeted by powerful forces. Internal and external pressures build and can test or distort a leader’s values and judgment. An important function of followership is minimizing unnecessary pressure that may contribute […]

The Courage to Serve

I never cease to be amazed at how many decisions a good chief of staff makes for a U.S. senator without consultation. Given the hundreds of small and large requests a senator receives daily, this is an essential function. It […]