The saying that leadership is about followers, is undeservingly detracting from the human capacity and dignity of people who happen not to be in leadership positions.

A follower is someone who does what other people say to do! Therefore, such a saying implies for those it calls “followers”, less value, or a possible incapacity on their part to contribute constructively, or that these people have accepted to surrender and confine their free self and thought to the command of a higher-up.

Even if we consider followership as simply a name given to the people in a company that are apart from the leader, with no intention for it to mean to exclude either a two-way communication or people from contributing, why use such a derogative name? Couldn’t we find a better one? Call them, say in politics, constituents, in business, colleagues or contributors, to also keep current with the modern philosophies of leadership which long ago moved away from the old school of Taylorism that advocated command and mechanistic-like behavior.

Leadership is about influence, not followers. A leader is an inspiring force that appeals to the human emotions of people and therefore to address them as “My dear followers” is incongruous with a noble character that a leader should have, and exhibit.

Influence means the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen. A leader does not operate by orders, does not coerce, nor does he use the authority of his position to force decisions on his people. Instead, a leader communicates, listens and includes, points the way to the goals and inspires action towards them.

A leader is an accomplished person with experiences, knowledge, skills, who seeks the best appropriate vision, and who, in search of that and of the most efficient course, listens, influences and aligns his people’s efforts; lower down he influences his people, higher up the board, across and horizontally the external partners. He senses, understands the external environment and seeks to utilize such external forces or moderate their effect, incorporating their influences in the company’s strategy and course.  There is no room or meaning for followers and followership.

Neither does a leader want to have followers; a leader, instead, needs to surround himself with free critical thinkers whom to include and engage in thoughtful discussions and with whom to deliberate when crafting the strategy and deciding the major issues.

Leadership is about inspiring and influencing people to change to a better state and in togetherness create enhanced possibilities for reaching the target vision. The management guru Peter Drucker summed it up when he described the work of leadership as “the raising of a person’s performance, the building up of a person’s personality and the lifting of a person’s vision”. And for such uplifting outcomes to occur, a leader must use his skill of influence recognizing that the persons upon whom his work is done, are real persons with human capacity and not simply followers!

About the author: Panikos Sardos is the Managing Director of P&E Sardos Business Solutions Int., a management consulting firm that offers advisory services, coaching and training and can be reached by email: psardos@sardossolutions.com or telephone: +357 99640912, +357 24400884, www.sardossolutions.com