I am running 6 miles with a group of marathon runners through an Ohio forest. None of them are SHRM members. More on that part later. We are following Al who wears a blue bandana on his head. I do not run marathons. Al is about 20 years older than me. My clothes weigh extra from sweat. I hear mud splashing, tree leaves rubbing my face and wind in my ears. I am a mess. Thirty minutes ago I did not know Al. Now I am one of his followers. He is leading us on a 6 mile run through the forest. No path. Just landmarks. About 4 miles into the run, I was spent. Al knew this. I was following him. He was in control. He was the leader. He then turned to me and said something I will never forget. He said, “It’s easier to lead than to follow.” So I took the lead.
At first it was uncomfortable. Then it felt better. I successfully lead us to mile 6. (BTW–This wasn’t enough for Al…He kept running). Life teaches when we let it. It was more than a run through the forest that day. It was about finding my own path to lead.
Funny if you think about it. Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Oprah etc., and all those faces on books who we see at book stores in airports. The media makes them out to be God like. You and I aspire to be like them. So fake. So false. It will never happen. Is there anything good about followership? All we hear is leadership. None of those faces could have done it with out followers. In organizations we do not say a damn good word about the followers. It’s all about the leaders. This mindset breeds unhealthy competition. We need leaders who can compliment us when we are at our best. Ones who can listen and get out of the way to let you shine. Ones who can follow. I could not have lead the runners out of the forest had I not been able to follow Al and his blue bandana.
The SHRM commercials and its mantra of “Leading People. Leading Organizations” are everywhere. CNN. Social Media. Flyers. SHRM has 250,000+ members. I am one of them. Are all 250,000 + of us going to lead people and lead organizations? A few of us will have to follow.
The digital/social/non-digital #HR leaders are working together with other people. We are offering ideas to each other. We need to balance how we take charge with how we follow. Followers are leaders too. I can follow. I can lead. I was a follower and a leader in the forest that day. I have to respond to my situation. I have to hear what others are saying. I have to take that and apply it IRL (In Real Life…I just barely learnt that acronym). I can’t do it all. What about people who ONLY want to lead? I would like to know who they are leading…because it ain’t me.
Photo Credit: Chris Waits