Chapter 4How to Follow

IT'S ONE THING TO KNOW HOW TO LEAD. It's quite another to know how to follow.

For as long as there have been leaders, there have been people bringing up their rear. This many years into the bargain, the dance is well-established: leaders set the pace, lay out the expectations, forge the path, and bask in the glory; followers do the heavy lifting, work in the shadows, make grunt wages, and take the heat. Two sides of the same ancient coin, each needs the other ferociously.

Leading is the celebrity role that catches all the klieg lights. Following, assumed to be a given in the wake of the path-setters, is every bit as key. Just as losing a race with grace is as important as ending it in civil victory, understanding the art of following someone else's oversight is as essential as mastering the qualities that define a great leader. Indeed, it might be argued that it's even more of a challenge to follow than to lead, particularly for personalities that are naturally given to taking charge and egos that flourish in the spotlight.

But even leaders must appreciate that it's neither prudent nor realistic to expect that they can call every last of an organization's shots. Moreover, they should understand that their comfort with taking direction from another is directly correlated to the likelihood that their company will enjoy success.

What the Birds Know

Skeptical? One need only cast his eyes heavenward to take a lesson from a winged collective and their approach ...

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