Debate about whether leaders are born or made may be as old as whether the chicken came first or the egg. My take on this is that leaders are born and I have no comment on the chicken! A recent study seems to have generated scientific evidence that suggests leaders are born as their brains are wired differently. If we are able to accept that not all of us can be great music composers or artists or sculptors, I am not sure we struggle to accept that not all of us are great leaders. Could this be because we all want to be seen as leaders and is that because of the attention a leader draws? The real motivation, I think, should be to bring in a change, towards betterment.
What makes some people leaders? Simple, followers. Unless there is a ‘pack’ to lead, the word leader itself becomes irrelevant. So the first thing a leader should do is get followers and not just any followers, but ones that appreciate the vision of the leader, share it and support it. The key then is successful communication as far as the leader is concerned. He or she should be able to make his potential followers understand what they stand for and how passionate they are about it. This may sometimes mean a crazy dance to get the crowd on their feet or a very diplomatic motivation speech as appropriate for the audience.
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Once a follower does infact come up, he or she begins to become the face of the change. Other potential followers seem to get some sort of comfort from the fact that another person has joined and then get to the edge of the fence. That puts a lot of importance on retaining the follower who indirectly canvases the cause the leader may stand up for.
Clearly, a follower is important to have a leader. How many of us like to be followers though? As I said earlier, more of us seem to like to see ourselves as leaders, is that a valid statement. Even if for a moment we discount that statement, how many of us have the courage to stand up in support of a cause and hence the leader behind. While there are many training courses that help enhance leadership skills, do we do enough about skills a follower needs? It sounds cliché but as the saying goes ‘ there is no I in a team’, do we do enough to help people think about the benefits of following instead of showing indifference and even worse, discouragement? Unless one is able to appreciate the outcome of a movement or any change for that matter, there is no drive to follow any leader.
In a society or even an organisation, how does one generate a culture to accept leadership and willingly and whole heartedly follow leaders. Somehow, people to find it rather comfortable following leadership with management authority but what about the others who have a vision, may not be big but a step in the right direction without authority. That ‘little’ leader may want to try different ways of articulating the cause and help others appreciate it but let’s face it, there are a number of those that would just not care or support.
Sometimes I wonder if people fear that if they are not seen as leaders but as followers, they will be considered less capable. As I said earlier, there certainly are some skills needed to be an active follower as well. The ability to see what the leader sees, in some cases play devil’s advocate and help them see what they may not be seeing, being a face of the cause in addition to making a person a leader are important enough, don’t you think?