Leadership

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Factors That Drive Followership


Udayakumar Nalinasekaren
Jan 06, 2011

FollowersThe core theme of leadership never changes. It is always about change. Positive leadership is always to bring about a change for better in the thoughts, acts and feelings and therefore in the life of those being led.There are always key factors that drive followership. What are key things a leader should consider when trying to make people to follow?

Imagine India just 25 years ago. India then was a place where only the government was seen as a stable provider of jobs. There were more young people in the country than what the government could employ. Private enterprises were few and considered by job seekers as a risky venture from a standpoint of longevity of employment. Employee loyalty was a given. Information about opportunities were available only to a privileged few. Only the economically privileged were able to leverage them. Added to this was the style of parenting that largely promoted lemmingship - i.e., encouraged only to be a stereotype and follow what succeeded already. This led to a command and control style of leadership to thrive. Even in those days, leaders who were seeking first to understand to develop a powerful vision existed. They were naturally followed with both the heart and mind together.

Fortunately for India, some of our leaders developed a stronger vision for her. They developed this vision with a deep understanding of what really mattered and which were the core issues that affected the country's progress.

The economic liberalization that started in 1992 brought in private education, increasing number of new job opportunities, awareness of culture choices and living styles from around the world through cable television, continuously improving/affordable remote connectivity across the nation, and access to the Internet.

Thanks to all these, our young work force is now well connected, much more informed and aware of opportunities and choices. Sometimes, the young know more than those with gray hair, experience and no network. The smart ones here value investment in self than a surplus in the bank account and quicker access to life's comforts. Unfortunately those smart ones are a smaller percentage. The good news however is that this smartness percentage is increasing.

Enterprises have also started to compete on merit to attract customer and employees. For many of us who hated the command and control style that we had to put up with, it is heartening to see it become irrelevant.

In my mind, there are four key factors that influence followership

  1. the individual's (the prospective follower) knowledge of choices,
  2. his/her ability to choose,
  3. attractiveness of the leader's vision, and
  4. the effort required to achieve that vision compared to alternates

In the above list, the first two factors determine the power of the individual. For example, the economically rich obviously have different choices than those who are not in any given situation. Third is the power of the prospective leader and his/her ability to impress/ inspire using that power. Fourth is the ability of the leader to demonstrate a navigable path to that vision. When the third and fourth aspects overpower the first two, willing followership results.

Wherever it is possible to constrain factors influncing the individual's power it will still be possible to play a command and control style of leadership. In all other cases listen, learn, envisionenthuse, enable and nurture are the winning strategic choices for a leader.


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