This principle is a twin to the previous one on training your people to become leaders. The fact is that no one is a leader all the time in every situation. When the biggest corporate head in America goes to church, the pastor is the leader and he is a member of the flock. When he attends his club, someone else is the executive and he is a dues-paying member.
Sometimes we lead; sometimes we follow.
In their book, “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?” Gareth Jones and Rob Goffee wondered what goes into making a good follower.
One aspect of that issue was to find out what leaders expect from members of their teams. They came up with four answers.
1) “I expect my people to speak up and tell me what they really think.”
We get the impression from the inside tales of companies that failed scandalously such as Enron and WorldCom that this quality was missing in the executive offices. No one was telling Kenneth Lay or Bernie Evers that the company was in trouble, that his decisions were faulty, and that disaster was looming. They told the boss what he wanted to hear, and everyone paid dearly for this failure.
It takes courage. I’ve been there. The others in the room are either agreeing with the boss or keeping their mouths shut. And yet, you know that they all know the boss’ plans are wrong. They’re just not willing to lay their jobs on the line. Better to be quiet and still have a paycheck coming in. Enron’s and WorldCom’s executives kept their mouths shut and everyone lost their paychecks.
Bible students will recall that in Genesis 35, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. Not a lot is made of that at the time, but anyone knowing the origins of those names sees a powerful point. The name “Jacob”–which comes out to something like Ya-a-cov in Hebrew–literally means “a heel-holder,” one who takes advantage of others, who gets a ride at their expense. “Israel,” something like Yitz-rael in Hebrew, means “one who wrestles with God.”
God was saying, “I would rather have you wrestling with me than taking advantage of your brother.” And don’t we appreciate that about our wonderful Lord!
It’s a trait of a good leader that he welcomes dissent. Not dissension, but dissent. If you think I’m about to make a mistake, tell me. If I hear you and then overrule you, you’ve done your part. If I am wise, I will value you highly for what you did—unless you are the dissenter on everything I suggest. In that case, I might suggest you find another place to work.
2) “I expect you to do your job well.”