Lean Agile Scotland Followership talk

I gave the 1st public outing of my “Followership – sometimes leadership can go f*ck itself” talk today at Lean Agile Scotland (#LASCot) 2019.

This post is a summary of the talk & some useful takeaways (slides are attached at the end of the post)

Followership talk LAScot front cover

I introduced the term followership through telling the story of picking myself up after gruelling leadership role, which left me mentally & physically shattered.

Followership Model

I used Ira Chaleff‘s Styles of Followership model to bring the term to life & help me show how it applies in our everyday life.

Here’s how I presented the model:

Ira Chaleff’s styles of followership

I built on the model to show how our followership style changes depending what we’re dealing with, who we’re interacting with & what situation we are dealing with – or Satir’s congruence model of Self, Other & Context:

Our followership style changes depending ourselves, others & context

Key takeaways from the followership model include:

  • There’s more than 1 followership style (i.e. not just a sheep!)
  • Our followership style changes depending on how we’re doing, who we’re interacting with & what situation we’re interacting in
  • Followership style can change during the day!
  • Chaleff’s model removes hierachy between followers & leaders – followers & leaders work together with shared values to serve the common purpose

Follower / leader dynamics in Agile

I called out that different contexts have different impacts on leaders. In some contexts, leaders are defined by their titles (& pay grades), in other context leaders are defined by their actions.

Agile leadership falls into the latter. 

I used the example of how the leadership role shifts within a 3 Amigos session to demonstrate this:

follower / leader dynamics in a 3 Amigos session

 At the beginning of the session, the Business focused stakeholders take the lead in defining the problem space. The developers & testers ask clarifying questions to help them get to shared understanding of the problem.

The conversation then shifts into the technical discussion where the developers & testers discuss potential solutions. The business stakeholders are still contributing by answering clarifying questions & correcting mis-assumptions where required.

The session then wraps up with a check back of the problem, some potential ideas to try out & actions.

In this example, no one is really leading the conversation – the BA is facilitating the closeout which really any of the roles could do.

Celebrating Followership!

The talk then moves into sharing some ideas why followership is cool!

Following is cool!
  • Following is learning (think of apprenticeships)
  • Following achieves a higher purpose (think of Extinction Rebellion & Climate Strike)
  • Following is liberating (followers don’t need to sack people)
  • Following is the route to leadership (followership is a big lesson for leadership)

Tips for fantastic followership

Followership is great & everything, but how can I be a fantastic follower?!

Here’s 7 tips I put forward:

Tips for fantastic followership
  • Aware – self, others, context
  • Diplomatic – treat others how they want to be treated
  • Critical thinkers – helps with decision making
  • Self-directed – you know what needs to be done, get on & do it
  • Collaborative – need to work together to achieve the common purpose
  • Courageous – have the confidence to know when to challenge & do it
  • Transparent – to help build honesty & trust

Wrap up

And finally I wrap up with these points:

Duncs LAScot19 wrap up
  • Don’t underestimate the value of followership
  • We have different styles of followership
  • We follow far more than we lead
  • It’s OK to be a follower
  • We don’t need titles to be a leader

Feedback & Improvements

I was fortunate to get some feedback immediately after the talk – this is awesome!

  • “How have I not heard about followership until now?!”
  • “One of the topics from this conference that I’m going to go away & research further”
  • “This will help me have a frank conversation with my boss”
  • You say it’s ok to be any follower style, but the Resource style still comes across as negative – can you remove the negative / positive impressions to promote the idea it’s ok to be a follower?
  • You need to celebrate followership more!
  • Give more concrete examples of followers & followership
  • Can you change the terminology to help overcome the negative perspective of being a follower?

LAScot Followership Slides

Here are the followership slides I presented at Lean Agile Scotland 2019:

UPDATE November 2019

Video recording is now up on Vimeo!