A Personal Perspective: Personal Reflections on Followership and Leadership
I will discuss personal follower and leader interactions with two individuals that I have worked with over the last five to seven years. I selected these individuals because of my relationship with them and their leadership capabilities. Secondly, I admire and model after both of them. Finally, I selected these individuals because they believe in me and have invested in my professional and personal development. I will discuss their leadership style in context with course materials and illustrate how I am able to be an effective follower under their leadership. I will also discuss the leadership qualities that make them highly effective leaders. A Personal Perspective: Personal Reflections on Followership and Leadership Trust is the most important factor in most relationships, professional and personal. It is very easy to follow someone that you trust, even when there are differences of opinion.
I have worked under the leadership of two dynamic leaders for the last five to seven years. The first is my boss, Karen Schrock, President & CEO of Adult Well-Being Services. The second individual I selected is my Pastor, James Minnick. I selected Karen and James because of my relationship with them. They are both highly effective leaders that I admire for their ability to lead under pressure, manage difficult people and situations, accomplish what needs to be accomplish and remain positive. They believe in me and have invested in my professional and personal development.
I strongly concur with the statement leaders are only as good as the people who follow (Johnson, 2011). Bjudstads defines followership as the ability to effectively follow the directives and support the efforts of a leader to maximize the organization (Bjudstad, 2006). An effective follower is one who is enthusiastic, self-reliant, and fulfills their duties with enthusiasm (Kelly, 1998). Courageous, honesty, credibility, competence, and focus are also qualities of a good follower. It is easy to follow when you are lead by leaders who are competent, passionate, exhibit compassion, and are able to communicate the vision, goals and objectives.
I have worked with Karen for seven years, first as her Administrative Assistant and now as the Manager of Executive Office Operations and Stapleton Operations. I worked as a project manager with my previous employer and the skills I developed in that position enabled me to transition to the position of Administrative Assistant for the President & CEO of an organization with ease. They refer to us as the dynamic duo because we work so well together. Karen is very organized, a detailed planner, and clearly communicates her expectations. I am very organized and a detailed planner. We meet at the beginning of each week. We both prepare a list of priorities (often they contain the same items). We differ in communication style. I prefer emails. She prefers face to face or phone communication. A good follower adapts to the style of the leader when necessary. So, I’ve adapted my style somewhat. When managing contacts for her, I will make the call or contact in person. Leaders and followers have to be flexible. I am able to approach her and discuss my view when we disagree because of our relationship and her leadership style. She always takes the time to make sure I understand even high level decisions.
She shares information so that I am able to make better decisions and work more effectively as a follower. I follow her because I trust that she has my best interest, as well as the best interest of the organization, in her perspective as she leads us. Another quality that allows me to be an effective follower is Karen allows me to do my work. I cannot imagine how frustrating it is to be micromanaged. I don’t require a lot of supervision. I know her expectations. I know the organization. I ask questions and for help when necessary. I am also proactive. It is not necessary for her to tell me what needs to be done in every instance. After working with her for so long, I often know what is expected and accomplish it before it is requested. I advise her of ongoing projects and issues that require her attention. It is my responsibility as a follower to ensure she is informed. Johnson states followers have a responsibility to give good information (Johnson, 2011). Good information is not necessarily pleasant.
I am able to tell her things others often sugar coat. If something is not working, she needs to know. I also present her with possible solutions when presenting problems. I am comfortable making decisions and informing her of the problem and my resolution. If I make a bad decision, she uses that as a learning opportunity. This is empowering, and has built my confidence and helped me develop as a manager. My relationship with James Minnick started many years ago. We grew up in our local church and I have known him for over thirty five years. I did not work closely with him until he became our Pastor. Shortly after becoming Pastor, he asked me to serve as a Trustee. I am now the Assistant Financial Secretary. It is in this capacity that I have grown to respect him as an effective leader. I am able to exhibit the same qualities of a follower as a Trustee that I exhibit when working with Karen. The environment is different; however, I am who I am. I am just as efficient at a Trustee and Assistant Financial Secretary as I am as an employee of Adult Well-Being Services. Good stewardship is required in both environments. Good leaders are able to identify the talents and abilities of their followers to fulfill the vision and mission of the organization in business and non-business environments.
I have the same commitment to the Church and its leader as I have to the organization that I work for. I follow James because I trust him and his ability to lead membership. It is easy to follow him because he allows each of us to first recognize, and then use our gifts to support the ministry. I have grown tremendously under the leadership of both of the individuals I’ve discussed. I am able to use my skills, talents and abilities at both organizations and use the resources of both organizations for the common good. I have learned from experiences at Adult Well-Being Services that have helped me as a Trustee and Financial Secretary at the church. They have assigned me projects that I did not believe I was capable of managing but with their encouragement, I accomplished them. James is also the Director of Transportation for Detroit Public Schools. I volunteered to head a project at work to use his expertise to improve our transportation operations. I have watched Karen develop collaborations and relationships to benefit the organization, and used this as a model to develop opportunities and relationships that benefit the organization and church. Goleman (2000) identified six leadership styles: coercive, reflective, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting and
coaching. Goleman and Gupta explain good leaders use all of the leadership styles; however, they consistently use only four of the leadership styles.
Not all of the styles produce positive results and a positive work climate (Goleman, 82). I was able to visualize how Karen and James use the styles presented and their impact on the organizations they lead. On a more personal note, I was able to see how the styles have impacted my relationship with them and my ability to be an effective follower. The four leadership styles that produce positive results and create a positive work environment are: 1. Authoritative (Mobilizes people toward a vision, encourages others to be a part); 2. Democratic (Works towards consensus, seeks the input of others); 3. Affliliative (Builds harmony and emotional bonds, people come first); and 4. Coaching (Develops people for the future, encourages new ideas/actions). These four styles, as well as the coercive and pacesetting, are demonstrated in the follower and leader interactions I have with James and Karen. I have to admit there are times when I say to them “Hold-up. You’re taking me too fast.” But I later appreciate that they trust my ability to do what they are asking me to do (even when I don’t). There are also times when they have to pull rank and say “just do it” because I am resistant and may not want to comply with what I’m being asked to do. I’m learning that there are times when they just want things accomplished.
While it may not be my responsibility, it would prolong their desire to have the task accomplished if I don’t do it. Most of the time their leadership styles exhibit the characteristics of leadership apparent in the democratic, coaching, authoritative, and affliliative leadership styles. Not only are these leadership styles beneficial to me, they benefit the organizations the lead. Under their leadership, stressful and chaotic situations become less stressful and chaotic. No one can ever say that they don’t know what’s expected of them because the goals and objectives are always communicated clearly. Karen and James possess values that enable me to follow without reservation. Honesty is first and foremost. They also value people as individuals, recognizing individual strengths and weaknesses. Bjugstad theorizes that organizations can maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of leader-follower relationships by matching the styles of leaders and followers (Bjugstad, 2006). I did not seek leaders from the delegating leadership quadrant. The selected me and have allowed me to develop into an exemplary follower. I also model their leadership styles and am growing as a leader. Exemplary leaders make it easy for others to be exemplary followers.
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