The suffix ship, is used with a large number of words, to designate the condition of being something, possessing skills and abilities related to something, or having the duties or status of something: Readership, horsemanship, fellowship, friendship, dealership, craftsmanship and others–including leadership. Nevertheless, there is something compelling about the concept of a ship, flags unfurled, leading the way for others. That is why it is such a shame when we see leaders and their followers run aground or capsize.
Old military and western movies often had the hero say, “Follow me, men!” Then, the hero left no doubt where they would be going–because he was already half way there.
In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying to a group of men who were fishing, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” They knew he had a mission and was making them part of it, so they threw down their nets and followed him. Uncle Kracker, in his 2001 song, only said, “Follow me and it will be alright.” John Denver, in his 70’s era song could only promise, “Follow me….and I will follow you.” The Great Leader made disciples by telling people what to expect if they looked to him for leadership. He was even honest about the fact that following Him would result in scorn, ridicule and maybe death–but people followed anyway.
I mention those examples to remind you that your leadership is all about encouraging, directing and hoping that people will follow you. But why should they? What will it get them and where will they end up? Calling yourself a leader is one thing. Taking people some place is another thing. Taking people someplace worthwhile is the ultimate thing.
A good way to force yourself to think about this issue is to develop a short statement that says what those who are influenced by you can expect in their work and their lives. You may never say it directly to those you wish to influence–although I think you should. But, just saying it to yourself is a test of whether or not there is anything definite to your leadership or if it is all blah-blah-blah fluff talk.
Will those who follow you be recognized for producing consistently excellent work?
Will they have experiences they can use to develop their careers?
Will they have many finished products they can point to with pride?
Will they be in line for advancement, bonuses or at least some kind of recognition?
What will be the downside? Might they be viewed as over-achievers? Could they be resented for holding to high standards?
Or, is the best you can promise, “Follow me and I’ll appreciate it”?
If you think you are an informal leader or if you have an organizational leadership role, develop an answer to this question: If people follow you, what results will they get?
Another way to put it: Pretend you are in front of one or more of the people you hope will view you as a leader. Complete this sentence: “Follow me, and…………!!”
By the way, Go Broncos!