Professor Rob Goffee of London Business School and Gareth Jones, a visiting proffessor at INSEAD, Fontainebleau and IE Business School in Madrid, published “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?” Goffee R. Jones G. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 78, No. 5. (Sep 2000)
Their question is one that can turn your thinking around, stop you in your tracks. Goffee and Jones reported it could silence a board room full of executives. One question and you’re flipped from thinking about your leadership style, qualities, and traits and left trying to pick up a follower centred approach.
Is followership a school of thought for leaders or is it most relevant to followers? I haven’t consciously ever tried to be a leader focused follower. There are leaders I follow and others I question, and I am a relentless sort of questioner, unfortunately for some less-than leaderful-leaders.
Goffee and Jones found four unexpected qualities in people who inspire followers. They;
– show weakness and express vulnerability
– rely on intuition to guide action
– exercise tough empathy
– reveal their differences, and what is unique about them
Is that a business leader I would follow or do I want an invincible super-hero with a strategic vision, based on hard data, who is fair and empathetic and not unlike me?. The Professors qualify their research saying that the above qualities are inherent in people who “excel at inspiring people – at capturing hearts, minds and souls…”. Is the follower with their heart mind and soul in custody, more than an automaton? Maybe that’s the point.
I do believe relationships in the workplace are most important, without strong connections our workplaces would indeed be the fabled soulless offices. Goffee and Jones leave me with many questions. I look forward to exploring the attributes of good leaders and followers more deeply – and discovering if we can still be friends.