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)
I introduced the term followership through telling the story of picking myself up after gruelling leadership role, which left me mentally & physically shattered.
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:
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:
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:
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.
The talk then moves into sharing some ideas why followership 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:
- 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
And finally I wrap up with these points:
- 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: