Who’s the bigger fool?

Leaders. Plenty of stuff written about them. I’m not a leader. Not in the way we’re all made out we should be. Steve Jobs did this. Richard Branson did this. Henry Ford said this. GE cut the bottom 10% of their organisation every year. And your CEO? Well he just got lucky.

But this post isn’t about leadership. It’s about the followers. Me. I’m a follower. I learned a long while ago I’m not a leader with a vision or with drive to achieve. Not in the sense of leading a business. I’ve still got a lot to learn about the world before I think I go down that road.

But I can tow the party line. And tow it well. I know how to deliver a message. I get company politics. I understand people and what drives them. I can sell in an idea and encourage discussion. I’m a loyal follower. I’ll defend my company to the hilt.

This is true of the world outside of work. I’m a loyal brand follower: Disney, Nike, Android, London, Marvel Comics over DC Comics. I’m also loyal to my family and friends. I quite enjoy being part of the crowd and in amongst the thick of things. I like to be in with current news and not being left out of the loop. I can take someone’s idea, credit it to them and help spread the message.

So I follow. And I follow faithfully and with genuine belief in the idea, plan, vision or whatever you want to call it. I’ll give direction where I think it’s needed and provide advice where I think it will help. I have ambitions to be a business asset. Sounds pretty boring huh? But that’s my role. I’m a support function and I’m pretty clear about the value I add to the business and where I add it. I don’t bring in sales, or develop strategy, or create marketing plans, but I know how to make all those things happen.

People like me, we’re good for the business. We help the culture stay strong and true to its word. My old boss is a great example of this. He wasn’t just the head of learning and development, he was a core part of the cultural development programme we had. That’s influence right there. But he was under no illusion that he had any more power than this. Partly because this was quite enough, partly because that wasn’t his interest anymore. Partly because he enjoyed being in the thick of the way the business operated.

I’m happy being a follower. I know my lot and what’s expected of me. I also know what can be achieved and how to make it happen. Leadership, that’s for you. Following, that’s what I do best.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

4 thoughts on “Who’s the bigger fool?”

  1. There’s so much almost obsessive focus on leadership so I think you’ve hit a sweet spot here Sukh. Where would we be without followers, doers, inspired performers? Leading isn’t for everyone and nor should it be. I’ve become a leader and I love that but I am also an avid follower. I like the fact I can do and love both. I like to think I lead with the heart and head and with the soul “what do those who follow me, need from me” is often my starting point – so from that perspective of mine you’re so right. True followers are a valuable, genuine and much needed asset across all walks of life. Great blog as usual, like your unashamed proudness to be a follower – keep the faith in your following and I hope others appreciate that about you – especially those you follow.

  2. I once had an interesting discussion many years ago with a professor who said that it should be ‘followership ‘that we should be teaching and not leadership. For example,in an organisation where there are few leaders and hundreds, possibly thousands of followers, surely it makes sense to know more about followership and what makes them tick?

    But who wants to talk about ‘followership’ when ‘leadership’ dominates!
    Barbara Kellerman has done some interesting work on followership and their level of engagement – isolates, bystanders, activists and diehards and how leaders can use this information. Leadership and followership are inseparable and the latter do exert power and influence. Think McDonalds – now selling salads, wraps and smoothies!

    Great post – enjoyed your perspective
    Vera

  3. Another definition for a leader ….. someone who inspires leadership in others and in my mind you absolutely ‘rock that’ Sukh calling out fabulous leadership qualities such as integrity, contribution, honesty, pace, challenge, openness, learning, humility ……

    Of course, each of us have our own definition of leadership which brings to me one of my other favourite statements ……

    ‘Leadership one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth’. James McGregor Burns via The Enlightened Leader (great book!)

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