Leadership and the Courage to Follow

Yesterday, just for fun, I Google'd leadership and received a response of 506 million articles. Among these replies, I found a range of topics on leadership; they crossed areas covering a broad spectrum of styles, concepts, models, and characteristics.  There were also articles which covered strategies, tactics, mentoring, and visioning; a lifetime of self-improvement reading material!

I've always considered myself a student of leadership principles and process.  As a business owner, board member, nonprofit executive, and especially as a twelve-year field-active member of a mountain search and rescue team, I've learned a thing or two on the subject.  With any luck, some of it may have actually stuck with me.

By far, my biggest lesson was learned when I read a very simple quote by the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lau Tse. Paraphrased, he said: "When the greatest leader's work is done, the people say they did it themselves."

Simple, profound, and true.  While we all strive to be leaders, as leaders, we all know it's not about us, it's about the vision, the movement, the cause.  But more importantly, without followers, there is no movement and sometimes following takes as much, or perhaps more courage than leading.  That's why the following humorous 3 minute video is nearly as profound as what Lau Tse proclaimed over 800 years ago.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO8MwBZl-Vc?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

I hope this serves to remind that while leadership is important, followers are the critical component of getting a movement started, and keeping it growing and persistent.  It takes guts to follow, so nurturing your followers is a fundamental key to leadership.  Viewed from this vantage point, I might catch myself in the camp that finds leadership in and of itself, just a bit over-glorified as well.

Perhaps we should all strive to be better students of following.

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