Follow the Leader isn’t a good strategy

This past weekend I took a trip with some friends to ride our snowmobiles in Quebec.  We had a great time, although I’m sore in places I didn’t know could get sore. I learned an important lesson during that trip. I fell into the trap of Follow the Leader.

Lesson learned.

During the trip we consistently follow each other in single file, with someone leading the pack. Very similar to a game often played by children called, Follow the Leader.

I’m not suggesting that as adults we were playing a game, but were actually following a natural habit. Although Follow the Leader may be a safe way to ride a snowmobile, it is not the most effective way to lead a team.

While we were riding we passed a sign that identified the trail turning to the right. My friend for whatever reason turned left. Being focused on my friend rather then the trail ahead, I followed him to the left into a heavily treed area. Not my ideal plan!

I clearly saw the sign to turn right, and saw the trail turning right, yet ignored this in favour of following my friend into the trees.

Why?

I had, like so many employees, become focused on what my friend was doing and ignored what was right in front of me.

Why strong leaders make weak teams.

This same phenomenon happens in team settings. Someone speaks up to suggest what the group should do or be doing, and then others simply follow with no pushback, disagreement, or discussion.

The reality is quite the opposite.

The success of a business is built upon it’s people. Great leaders act as conduits offering ideas, support, and feedback, not a single opinion or vision.

Are your people over eager to follow? Here is a test you can try.

Ask a few employees if there has ever been something you suggested that they disagreed with. Once they identify something, ask them what they did about it.

  • Did they ask questions?
  • Were they able to share alternate ideas?
  • How much did they push back?

Likely many will admit they simply followed through. They will also likely admit they felt more disgruntled and less valuable.

In my experience, virtually every employee has at some point simply followed through. Is this the culture you’re seeking?

So What Now?

  • Challenge your people to challenge you
  • Push back if they simply accept your ideas
  • Pose more questions than you do answers

Your team’s independence and creativity depends on it.

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