Follower Does Not Equal failure

A great deal of time and attention is regularly devoted to exploring the many facets of leadership. The collective labors of a wide variety of people have been devoted to creating a proper understanding of just what constitutes the makeup of those...


A great deal of time and attention is regularly devoted to exploring the many facets of leadership. The collective labors of a wide variety of people have been devoted to creating a proper understanding of just what constitutes the makeup of those among us who turn out to be good leaders. Many among this research throng are looking for a magic formula. These people believe that it is possible to create a "magic mental bullet" which, when shot into the brain of a receptive person, will suddenly make them an effective leader. Sorry.
 
You will of course know by now that I am one of the people who have been studying this issue of leadership. What separates me from many in the pack of persistent pedagogues who persist in pursuing our professional passions is that I see no hope of creating a magic potion which, when consumed, will cause a person to be a positive force in their organization. Instead I have uncovered a wide variety of things which people who wish to can learn if they so choose.
 
Let me suggest that we each have the potential to learn about leadership in the old fashioned way. We can read about it, observe the actions of others, ponder what is going on around us, and then define our own personal approach to leading people. We then lead others, make our mistakes, undergo a re-learning process and then work to hone our approach. Let me suggest that being a leader in your fire department is more of a journey-based lifestyle than a destination-oriented system. There is always something new to learn and do. You do not arrive at a position of leadership and then begin to simply vegetate.
 
It is this great obsession with what makes up leadership that takes us away from a fairly important point. Everyone cannot be a leader. There are those who will, by choice or chance, spend their entire time in your fire department as workers. It is up to you to nurture thee folks so that they will be equipped to make the move from member to follower. 
 
Let me stress that there needs to be a sufficient number of followers in order to accomplish the actual work of the organization. What makes a follower a great follower? They need to understand the vision being put forward by the leader and believe that they have a valuable role in the accomplishment of the plans created with their efforts in mind. Let now me offer a couple of additional questions which I wish to use in defining this discussion regarding leadership and followership.
 
The first question may seem simple, but I want you to pause and ponder just what I am saying to you. Is every member of your organization going to be a leader? What do you think? Let me suggest that when you think about the size of most organizations, you will see that it will be impossible for every person to become a leader. There are only so many positions for leaders.
 
My next question is going to be a bit more provocative. I want you to think long and hard before you answer this one. Do you equate being a follower with being a failure? Does not being a leader make a person any less of a person? Before you answer, take and moment and think about the many people with whom you have worked over the past months and years.
 
Are there folks in your fire department who have devoted decades of service to your organization without ever rising to an officer's position? You bet there are. Many people have an internal need to rise up and assume positions of responsibility for other folks. That is part of human nature. Let me also offer the thought that there are others among us who thrive on the doing of their jobs. Their entire reason for belonging to an organization is to be a part of the team. 
 
Let me share with you the fact that I have seen this in the military, career, and volunteer fire service. But it goes well beyond our small share of society. There are people in the Masonic World who delight in living life on the sidelines of their lodges. They have their reasons for not wishing to rise up through the officer's ranks. It is not my place to challenge their reasons, rationale, or their lives. We cherish each person for what their companionship provides as well as what they can devote to the overall good of our lodges. 
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