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How to implement follower-focused leadership in your organisation

The essence of follower-focused leadership

In the previous parts of this series, we explored the meaning, significance, and psychology of follower-focused leadership. Now, we delve into the practicality of this concept, offering a roadmap to adopting and cultivating it within your organisation.

As leaders, to transform our organisations, we must first transform ourselves. Follower-focused leadership is not a switch to be flipped overnight; it’s a conscious, consistent journey of personal and organisational development. Adopting this style requires more than just a superficial understanding; it demands a deep dive into the practicalities of promoting open communication, developing empathy, facilitating continuous learning, empowering team members, and overcoming the inevitable challenges along the way.

Promoting open communication

The first step towards adopting follower-focused leadership is fostering an environment of open communication. This involves establishing channels that allow for free and honest discussion. It means creating a safe space where team members can express their thoughts, ideas, concerns, and even criticisms without fear of judgement or retribution. This openness can stimulate creativity, innovation, and a sense of ownership among team members.

Creating a culture of open communication is not a one-and-done process. It takes time, patience, and a commitment to transparency. Leaders must actively encourage team members to speak their minds and share their ideas. This can be facilitated through regular team meetings, suggestion boxes, or anonymous surveys.

However, the fear of victimisation by vindictive leaders can stifle open communication. Through consistent actions, leaders must demonstrate that employees will not be penalised for expressing their views. It involves self-checking one’s reactions, avoiding vindictive behaviours, and implementing a strict no-retaliation policy.

As leaders, to transform our organisations, we must first transform ourselves. Follower-focused leadership is not a switch to be flipped overnight; it’s a conscious, consistent journey of personal and organisational development.

Developing empathy

Empathy is the cornerstone of follower-focused leadership. It’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and to see the world from their perspective. By developing empathy, leaders can form deeper and more meaningful connections with their team, fostering a sense of belonging and trust. This requires active listening and genuine interest in the well-being of team members.

Empathy should not be a political point to be scored, but a core value that leaders live by every day. This means genuinely caring for team members, understanding their challenges, and offering help when needed. Leaders can demonstrate empathy by spending one-on-one time with team members, actively listening to their concerns, and responding with understanding and compassion. It’s also about acknowledging your own mistakes as a leader and apologising when necessary. These actions show that you value your team members as individuals, not just as employees.

Facilitating continuous learning

A follower-focused leader is a lifelong learner and encourages the same in their team. This involves cultivating an environment that values learning and growth, offering opportunities for professional development, and encouraging curiosity. It’s about understanding that mistakes are part of the learning process, creating a culture that embraces them rather than shies away from them.

Fostering a culture of continuous learning can be achieved by offering regular training and development opportunities. This can include workshops, seminars, online courses, or even mentorship programmes.

Leaders should also promote a growth mindset, where mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning rather than failures. Encourage team members to try new things, take risks, and learn from their mistakes. Celebrate the learning process as much as possible to foster a culture that embraces continuous learning.

Empowering team members

Empowerment goes beyond delegating tasks. Empowerment is about giving team members the authority and autonomy to make decisions, solve problems, and contribute their unique skills and talents. By doing so, leaders not only boost morale and motivation but also foster a sense of ownership and accountability.

This can be achieved by setting clear expectations, providing the necessary resources and support, and then stepping back to let them do their work. Recognize and reward their efforts to motivate them and build their confidence.

Read also: Redefining leadership: A path to economic stability and collective prosperity in Nigeria

Overcoming challenges

Despite its many benefits, implementing follower-focused leadership can face resistance. Change, after all, is often met with scepticism and fear. Additionally, the tendency to revert to traditional leadership behaviours can pose a significant hurdle.

Leaders often struggle with their insecurities, fear, and lack of trust. It’s important to address these issues head-on. Leaders must learn to trust their team, to let go of control, and to embrace the uncertainty that comes with change.

Followers, too, may have reservations about this new dynamic. They may feel unsure about their new roles and responsibilities. Leaders can help alleviate these concerns by clearly communicating the benefits of follower-focused leadership, providing consistent support and guidance, and demonstrating the value of this leadership style through actions.

It is crucial to address these challenges head-on, with transparent communication about the benefits of this leadership style, patience, and commitment to the process.

It is also helpful to share success stories of organisations that have successfully embraced follower-focused leadership. These serve as powerful examples and can inspire and motivate your team to embrace this change.

Identifying the right leaders

Finally, for followers, it’s equally important to identify the right leaders to follow. Many young professionals, unfortunately, waste their most productive years following leaders who see them as tools rather than valued human beings. Followers should look for leaders who respect their individuality, value their contributions, and invest in their growth.

In professional settings, this means seeking leaders who demonstrate empathy, encourage open communication, facilitate continuous learning, and empower their team members. Followers should feel valued, heard, and motivated to grow under their leader’s guidance.

For followers, identifying the right leaders to follow is crucial. You should seek leaders who respect your individuality, value your contributions, and are committed to your growth. It would be best if you looked for leaders who demonstrate empathy, promote open communication, foster continuous learning, and empower your team members.

In conclusion, adopting follower-focused leadership is a transformative journey that requires commitment, patience, and an unwavering focus on the team’s needs and aspirations. It’s about shifting from a mindset of “command and control” to one of “connect and collaborate.” It’s about viewing leadership not as a position of power but as an opportunity to serve and to shape the future of your organisation one follower at a time.

About the Author

Toye Sobande is a strategic leadership expert, lawyer, public speaker, and trainer. He is the CEO of Stephens Leadership Consultancy LLC, a strategy and management consulting firm offering creative insight and solutions to businesses and leaders. Email: [email protected]