CW4 Paul Dannar, US-A - Views of Leadership Part 1
This week at the Voices of NATO we will be doing a series of blogs on leadership. Our intent with this blog series is not to tell you what leadership is, but to foster a dialog amongst all of you concerning leadership, with a focus on leadership at the senior non-commissioned, warrant, and junior officer level.
In the first of our four-part series, CW4 Paul Dannar comments on the leader/follower relationship.
Mentorship/Discipleship in the Leader/Follower Relationship
Hollander The Leadership Quarterly Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 1992, Pages 43-54, notes that in many organizations the leader/follower relationship is still working on the old assumption that the leader is the active participant while the follower is the passive participant in the relationship. The leader/follower relationship must evolve beyond having only one active member as this process is both inefficient and creates a relationship based upon dependency.
Organizations will thrive only if quality relationships between the leader and the follower are developed. This being the case what makes a quality relationship? How is one recognized? In essence, the leader/follower relationship comes down to influence. This cannot be a one-way influence; organizations must ensure that influence is allowed to flow across functional boundaries because top-down only influence has limited value, this reciprocal relationship between the leader and the led builds trust and credibility. One-way influence has limited value because the follower is not part of the decision making process. If we want quality execution of some task or more importantly if we want our followers (often called front line leaders) to use their judgement to make tactical level decision – then certainly they must be part of the conversation in regard to courses of action.
A quality relationship is displayed when the leader understands the strengths and weaknesses of the follower and begins to recognize the good ideas that the follower is offering. Developing a quality relationship does not stop at recognizing good ideas. When the leader begins to support those ideas not only does the organization benefit, it can compel the follower to continue to provide these ideas, confident that the leader will utilize them when appropriate. As the leader publicly acknowledges follower input other individuals in the organization become willing to offer ideas. Building this type of relationship does not happen by mistake; but by hard work and a purposeful desire for a positive outcome. The primary methods in which the follower/leader relationship can be fostered and developed are through discipleship, apprenticeship, or mentorship, which are designed to develop relationships where the leader guides the follower through the realities of the organization. These methods are centered on professional development, skill improvement, and organizational socialization. The desired outcome is a much more mature follower who becomes the next leader or skilled expert, enhancing the development of the follower, leader and the organization.