Monday, January 23, 2012

The Followers

Last week I found an article in LinkedIn (via Forbes), that struck me as interesting.  The article talked about how good leaders are created by their charges just as much as they create winning teams.

Oddly enough, I've never considered the fact that I may have contributed to my past supervisors or leaders.  My perception of not having contributed to their growth as leaders comes from the fact that very few of them show interest in how my story continues.  I'm usually the one reaching out to see how they are and what they are doing, and not the other way around.  Does that mean, according to Forbes contributor Mike Myatt, that my leaders of the past are missing the complete picture?

Maybe I'm taking this too far, but the co-author of the article, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Devine of the US Army, stated the following that led me to that conclusion:

In most literature leaders are openly encouraged to understand how their own traits, strengths, weaknesses and habits affect their relationships, decision making, style, etc. What I think is not addressed is the criticality of a leader’s ability to reflect and understand the impact that the people he/she leads has on his/her own personal development and growth.
In other words, for a leader to truly be great, he/she must accept and understand that the people they have the privilege to lead will indelibly shape the kind of person and leader they become. If you are good at the profession of leadership, then you habitually form close relationships with your team members. This inevitably causes you to internalize and incorporate the team’s traits as surely as the team will internalize your behaviors and disposition.

I can't say that I blame my leaders for the lack of follow-up; as Devine states, "the literature" teaches leaders to focus on what they bring to the table and not what the table brings to them, and maybe I don't warrant the follow-up in the eyes of those who used to lead me.  But for years I've thought of myself as missing something by wanting to know how the people I used to lead were doing.  I've been told by other leaders to let bygones be bygones.  But these people lent something to me, too, I inwardly respond, biting my tongue.

And maybe it's not a good idea to spend so much energy trying to focus my connections on just those who led me, but those who followed me, too.


Since I left Grainger in April I have kept in touch with my former charges at Grainger in San Francisco, and with a couple of folks on Facebook at the Oakland location.  Two days before I left for Southern California I got a call from one of the employees at the Oakland office, and the phone was passed around from one former follower to another.  I was a big phone channel proponent at the Oakland office, and I asked about their stats.  Were they still working to lead the district in stats?

Yes, they answered me proudly.  We still lead the district.

Nine months after I left, I still had an effect on them.  I contributed.  Only a follower would have been able to tell me that.  And they called me to tell me that.

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