She was a favorite author of mine as a child. Her Earthsea books kept me up late at night dreaming of discovering magic for myself. I continue to look.
Ursula K. Le Guin wrote on many topics including Taoist scripture. She wrote her own rendering of the Tao Te Ching. One may view this ancient writing as the oldest known on what we call leadership.
Maybe this vision is an ideal … maybe it is naive in today’s world.
I choose to smile, nod my head, and understand as I read it. It speaks to me. Leadership is influence. Nothing says that influence needs to be recognized.
True leaders are hardly known to their followers.
Next best are leaders who are loved.
Next those who are feared.
And the worst are those they despise.
To give no trust.
Is to get no trust.
When the work is done well,
The people say:
We did it ourselves.
I recently read an article written by William J. Bennett who monitors the list of University commencement speakers each year. He is reviewing the trend on the chosen speakers and the message of these speakers. It is a terrific idea Mr. Bennett has here as it can tell us so much about where society stands (at least here in the United States).
The article focused on what he calls, “one of the most original choices” for a commencement speaker. The speaker in question is US Navy SEAL Eric Greitens who spoke at Tufts University this year. Eric is indeed a Navy SEAL and a Rhodes scholar and humanitarian. His message as presented in Mr. Bennett’s article spoke to me and my mission with this blog. Eric through his actions is We Move Together personified. Let me explain through Eric’s own commentary during the commencement speech.
Challenging the new graduates is a standard approach at commencement ceremonies. Eric follows along to challenge, but his message is different. Typically the speaker tells students to “follow your passion” or “dream big”. As Mr. Bennett points out in the article, higher education has turned from “selflessness to self-obsession”.
Eric’ message concerns “sacrifice, to serve one’s country and to live magnanimously”. He calls for the students to “think above and beyond their own dreams and desires … to serve a purpose larger than myself”. Eric recognizes the higher order of leadership … of Servant Leadership. It is not about me. It is about you and us. We Move Together.
“What kind of service can I provide? What kind of positive difference can I make in the lives of others? If you work every day to live an answer to that question, then you will be stronger.”
It is Memorial Day weekend here in the United States. It is a time for us to reflect on and thank the men and women who serve our country through the military both past and present. I for one will do just that this weekend including reading more about Eric Greitens, a man who personifies WeMoveTogether.
Here are some links to learn more:
First a question – where are you as a leader? Do you have people reporting to you? Are you more senior and have people reporting to your people? Heck, do you have people reporting to other people who report to your people and so on? To have anyone reporting to you is a huge responsibility (and a gift if you ask me). This is great; it is what you want as a leader, people and responsibility. Yet, no matter how many levels of people report up to you, you yourself have a person that you report to as well.
Step one of effective leadership is being a good follower.
In one article I found, R.E. Kelly writes in the Harvard Business Review, “the traits of a good follower are nearly the same as the traits of a good leader. Effective followers: manage themselves well; are committed to the organization and to a purpose, principle, or person outside themselves; build their competence and focus their efforts for maximum impact; and are courageous, honest, and credible. Leader and follower are roles, not people. Both can be capable, ethical, and independent”.
In the book “The Art of Followership” the authors have a great term for us to consider, “Courageous Follower“. The courageous part is when the follower is strong enough to fully support the leader including constructively challenging the leader when necessary. As a leader do you not want your followers to challenge you in a constructive manner that is only looking out for what is best for you and your organization? Of course this is what any truly effective leader wants for his or her team.
As a good leader you can build the environment that supports good followers. The tenants of Servant Leadership connect here as well. Tell the truth to your people. Honor their gifts and abilities. Provide feedback with compassion. This builds the environment where your staff can be outstanding and courageous followers. As a leader and a follower, what can you do to assist your leader to be better? Same as from the leader to the follower: tell the truth, honor the person, and provide feedback with compassion. One can look at being a good follower and a good leader as a continuation of the same loop.
Simple. A good leader is a good follower. Remember we move together.