The First Follower - Dancing With The Leader
The first follower takes the focus off the leader’s unique status by adopting his/her beliefs and practices – almost mimicking them – but really casting a light on them that is also unique to that first follower. This inspires others to jump into the fray and see how it all looks and feels. Those additional followers become less and less noticed as they become lost in the crowd that includes a majority of everyone else. At the same time, the organization has everyone on their feet, moving in the same direction, in unison, each putting their own unique imprimatur on the movement.
The important message here is that as crucial as it is to have effective leaders to transform schools, it is equally important for that leader to be able to generate first and second followers to get the mission accomplished. In the past I’ve called this the ‘nucleus of support’ and ‘critical mass’ needed to get to the transformation. What I didn’t consciously understand was the impact of that first follower.
Obviously, that first follower has to be well chosen to get the mission underway. The leader will want someone who knows and understands the organization, is networked positively and respectfully with others, is able to effectively communicate in ways productive within the culture, and, above all, is focused on serving students and community – not self.
Tall order? Not really. Think back to all of your leadership roles and the people with whom you worked to get the job done. Who emerged as your first follower? Why? If you consciously engaged with the person toward organizational goals – how did you do that?
I have thought about all of my education leadership roles and was able to identify each first follower and subsequent follower groups. I had no idea that is what I was doing….but it was the reason we accomplished our missions! For me it was quite an ‘a-ha’ moment.