You know what topic rankles me more than most?
Please, dear blooming pear trees, can we stop telling people to be leaders or how to be leaders or that being a leader is a good idea?
I’m in CEO spaces, online membership communities, and have been a part of religious organizations. All are obsessed with training leaders, teaching about leadership, and then endowing you with authority that a “leader” deserves to have. Total status thing to be a leader (and then I wonder—who are the followers if everyone wants to be a leader?).
You know what podcasts about failed organizations tell me? That you can’t trust leaders!
Sure, managers of baseball teams are seen as de facto “leaders.” But who scores the runs?
I would love to see a revolution of followership. Maria Montessori does my favorite twist on leadership: “Follow your child, but follow as his leader.” Use that experience, resource, and maturity to follow your child. WHAT? Your child gets to have support for their agenda, not be “led” by yours. So good, right?
Collaboration seems a better goal to me. What creates an environment where each person has agency?
I know sometimes decisions have to be made and there’s a point person who makes the call. But I’d rather name that for what it is: Responsibility.
Why dress it up in “leadership”? Feels coercive to me—like the “followers” need to trust me or look up to me. Responsibility just says: “I’ll take the heat if this is the wrong call.” Very different from “the leader knows best.”
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What do I think about the term leadership?
- Do I like being seen as someone’s follower?
- If I see myself as a leader, do I know if my “followers” see me that way?
- What is the advantage of not being a leader when in a relationship with others?
Above is a photo of me pretending to fly. It dawned on me that I should never be a pilot. I would be terrible at it. No margin for error. I need lots of margin.
Maybe that’s why being a “leader” feels fraudulent. People trust you! I want people to trust themselves.