Creating Extraordinary Followership
Several decades ago, an unusually skilled team leader at a pharmaceutical company left to join a competitor. What happened next turned the company and employment law on its head forever. Scores of colleagues followed the leader to the new enterprise, draining the previous employer of critical talent and crushing their results for years to come. Such is the influence of leaders who create extraordinary followership.
Leaders skilled at fostering followership create deep and lasting relationships with team members and colleagues. But, their influence goes way beyond a relational bond. People line up to work with followership leaders because they come to feel differently about themselves. Knowing that a leader they respect thinks highly of them, sees their unique potential, and would do anything to propel their success, team members soon exude an unwavering confidence and a can-do attitude that can’t be replicated by any other relationship.
By guiding, coaching, and cheering for team members in both good times and bad, followership leaders create a deep sense of loyalty that people covet. Team members reward this loyalty by fiercely reciprocating it. They never let others unfairly criticize the leader, stand ready to help them in any way they can, and turn down lucrative offers to remain by the leader’s side. As the label suggests, they follow them in whatever they do and wherever they go.
The expressions offered by team members to describe their loyalty would be laughable if not for the sincerity from which they are offered:
“I’d place my hand in fire for that leader.”
“I would run into traffic if they needed me to.”
“I would tear down walls if they asked me.”
“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to support them.”
When combined with the quality of producing extraordinary results through others, leaders with followership skills become deeply admired and exert a tremendous influence on those around them. Developing the behaviors and routines that produce followership is something every leader can and should work on. The result might be relationally spectacular.
A couple of comments: I don't think 'blind allegiance' to a leader is healthy or good. I also wonder how much about it is the leader's behavior (it is some but I don't think all) that get people to follow them or the fact that they think they'll have an 'in' at the new company. Lastly, this happens a lot in my industry. Leaders leave, people follow to work for that leader. A lot of them come back or ask to come stating that the culture at the other place was not a fit. The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill.