You have heard this phrase before, I’m sure. You may even have said it yourself, or at least thought it… I admit that I’ve said it, and thought it several times when a younger, more inexperienced manager (politics tends to push me into that thinking still… sigh).
I do try to catch myself now, and bite my lip if necessary! At work I go for even better: I will rephrase LFOGOOTW to give people a more welcoming “we” choice, to deliberately eliminate the GOOTW sarcasm. When I sense my team has reached a degree of clarity with an issue, I ask, “would you like to lead this one, or work within your followership?” genuinely feeling that both choices have merit, just different energies, and that each person can make each choice relative to the variables at hand.
Replace innuendo with Culture-building
I’m not the only one who feels that way; it’s in our culture. Our team has talked about followership enough to know that Following is NOT a Passive Activity. Following can often go the What/How way of the managing verb (as compared to the Why/When leading verb), a great thing.
As for “…or get out of the way,” that’s not one of our options. We can’t afford bench-warming (and nobody likes it).
The trick to timing the question of lead or follow, is one of sensing people are ready for action, and feeling we’ve talked about it quite enough — at least in that stage of the project. The “lead or follow?” question turns people loose when both choices have been established as good choices in a workplace culture. Neither has that cynical dig in it (“if not, get out of the way.”) which is very un-inclusive (i.e. un-Kākou).
However is that enough?
In Managing with Aloha cultures, we do go for the “and” instead of the “either/or.” LFOGOOTW is a good case in point with advocating the “and” embrace, for as Dan points out in the comments, “lead, follow, or get out of the way oversimplifies things a bit.”
The more I read, the more apparent it becomes that for as long as I can remember, I have been looking for others to provide me with clear answers rather than developing them on my own. In fact, I am truly grateful to the gentleman who inspired [this conversation string on “Lead, Follow, or Get out of the way.”] since I often get stuck thinking about mantras as law.
So what does this have to do with leadership? For me, the lead or follow mentality seems limiting. Much like in partnerships, where only two people are involved, it’s about taking turns. In other words, it’s about being a team-player, just like you expressed [with the value of Lōkahi]. The best leaders understand this and know when to stand down.
In an environment where all members are respectful the leader rises to the occasion with ease. Nurturing an environment that enables every member to shine is not always easy, but that is certainly my goal.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with looking to others for help with answers; in fact, learning from their lessons is quite wise. And taking turns can help — don’t think it simplistic and dismiss it. We seldom work alone or in a vacuum, and collaborative and synergistic work is what great teams engage in and thrill to.
And I love what Steph had observed, that “In an environment where all members are respectful the leader rises to the occasion with ease.” The goal she had to nurture such an environment was outstanding — truly Kākou behavior with that Ho‘ohanohano demeanor of respect.
I think about it again today (thus this post) as I wonder what direction the nascent #Occupy movement will start to take.
“Rise to the occasion” with Lōkahi
How do we allow leaders to rise to the occasion with ease as Steph says, while we continue to shape our own more progressive and proactive behavior?
Let’s revisit the Lōkahi connection: Lōkahi is the value of collaboration, harmony and unity. The pairing of Kākou and Lōkahi are the MWA values of teamwork. They are the value-drivers of the followers that leaders dream of inspiring, and having on their team.
From Managing with Aloha, under a section heading called “the role of the individual” (hardcover page 107);
“Most of the Hawaiian values really speak to personal endeavors, and the concept that all starts from within you. We are responsible for our own attitudes, our own choices, our own happiness and our own success. While Lōkahi speaks to the behavior of people within a group, its core assumption is that the group’s effectiveness comes from the choices made by the individuals within it.”
“Lōkahi asks these questions: Are you a bystander or are you truly engaged? Does your reach include the entire team, and are you being cooperative? Do you seek to understand everyone’s opinion while sharing your own? Are you looking for mutually beneficial agreement or are you settling for negotiation or compromise? Do you understand the role of every person, and are you respectful of their participation and involvement? Are you fulfilling your own role and responsibility, so that you make the contribution that is expected of you? Are you supportive and positive?”
In other words, are you a team player? Will you be the best you can be on the team that your leader of choice champions? When called upon to do so, will you be able to take your turn leading too, building upon the involvement you have had all along?
Lasting movements (progress) requires clear, directional Change
In that conversation string I pulled Steph’s comment from, we’d reconvened to talk story about self-leadership in our value-mapping process. We spoke of how our leadership vocabulary could be sharpened, and thus strengthened as “Language of Intention” (MWA Key 5).
Then we asked each other, “What is self-leadership?” and tried to focus in on it in regard to effecting change. I recall it now (and looked up our conversation archive), because of all the dissatisfaction in current affairs — something’s got to give, and people say they want change: What will it be, and how will it happen?
Nothing changes until something shifts or moves. Self-leadership is what gets us to move.
For the most part, I like change because it is vibrant and alive; it defies stagnation. I say ‘for the most part’ because there are times for calm and for stillness, but those are times for the reflection which leads to rejuvenation, and for fortifying our energies for the next leaps of movement.
That’s because nothing changes until someONE shifts or moves.
That someone is the self-led, the person who chooses self-leadership first, so they need never depend on the leadership of another to free them from any stagnation or inertia; they do so for themselves. That someone may emerge to be the leader, or one of them, but for the time being they have their own work to do.
The person who chooses self-leadership as their first experience, can then empathize with the needs of others they will eventually ask to join in, or to follow their lead. Often they need not ask; it just happens because leadership is so attractive and compelling. It’s magnetic and contageous.
The self-leadership of the value of Alaka‘i is about strong, self-impelling initiative.
It is the ability to self-energize so you always have reserves to call upon when you need them.
It is the ability to self-motivate, for motivation is an inside-job: If we’re completely honest, we will admit that no one can motivate us; we must do so for ourselves.
Self-leadership is a quest for learning more about what is possible. Therefore, there is an impatience and sense of urgency about self-leadership, for those who quest know that something bigger and better exists to be discovered or created.
The self-led have the burning desire to be the one who will do that discovering or creating.
Is that the person you are, or the person you hope to be?
I do believe that at some point in everyone’s life, they can answer, “Yes.” As Steph helped us see, it becomes our turn.
Alaka‘i may not be the most consistently called-upon value that we choose when it comes to our personal values, but I do believe it may be one that we universally share much more than others. We each have it: It’s more a question of when we choose to invoke this value, and about which of our passions, and about whether that passion is one we champion or choose another leader for.
Postscript: You will notice that the 1st few comments below are from August of 2009: This is a refreshing and reframing of this post when originally published then. I am doing what I encourage you to do in workplace culture-building: Repeat what you stand for to keep your language of intention alive and well. Refresh it and reframe it when necessary, and you keep it Kākou too – not everyone will have heard it the first time (or will have retained it). If it is important, put it back on stage: Alaka‘i ABCs: What do you stand for?
So I invite you to weigh in again: Let’s talk story.
If you are newly joining us, Alaka‘i was subject of the posting before this one too: Alaka‘i Leadership, Chiefs and Indians. Sections include:
- Leadership delivers an affirmation of our values
- What do we do, when leadership fails us?
- Alaka‘i Leadership is a concept of abundance