Can I follow, please?

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If not for them, the wheels of an organisation will not run smoothly.

Ram is a senior software programmer.  He has his ambitions, he loves his wealth, he has goals, he wants recognition and he wants to follow.  But he does not want to be a leader.  What should be the qualities of Ram as a subordinate?

Many readers can relate to the world of Ram.  These were his thoughts: “I love doing my work.  I stick to my job description.  I enjoy the little time I get in the cafeteria.  My world is my work, my desk, my role, and performance.  At my workplace, I am interested in accomplishing what is being assigned to me.  My accomplishments are closing my activities on time and meeting the expectations of the management.”

Ram works for a company with over 700 employees.  Most of them can be categorised as engineers, and a few could border to be geeks.  The top management comprised the CEO, CFO, a handful of board members, and investor nominees.

As Ram sat in the ‘leadership program’, he seemed to be bored.  The inspirational talks on leadership role, leadership traits, leadership awakening, etc., sounded boring to him.  Ram wondered, “Why do I need to know about leadership?  All I want to do is work.  I love my job.  My joy is in being led.”

Every conglomerate, business entity, academy, spiritual organization, political party, family or any place where there are people needs leaders.  The leaders are not the masses; they are only the top few.  In many cases, it is a solitary role.  However, there are innumerable books on leadership, leader’s thought process, leader’s life and so on.  Ram wondered, “There can be only a few who will lead.  Then why should there be so much emphasis on leadership development?  Shouldn’t the emphasis be on the people who are being led?”

Ram’s company had 700 people, of which the top management had space only for four or five people.  Therefore, the question which is more important is not ‘how to be a good leader?’ but ‘how could I be a good follower?’  There has been enough written, spoken, studied, researched, thought and deliberated about ‘leaders’ and not about ‘being led’.  Ram wanted to be led.

Everybody cannot be a Tata or a national cricket captain.  Majority of the others would need to understand the game of being a good follower.  The answers to this question would make an organization peaceful and bereft of unsolicited rumours and judgements.

Leadership is inborn, legacy based, earned or, in a few cases, bestowed.  In the case of Ram, as in the case of many employees, it was not in his core to become a leader.  It is best to concentrate on one’s strength rather than weakness.  The strength of Ram is to work and not to lead.  There are so many of us in this mantle of being led.  The world has very few leaders, and the people who are being led are always the majority.

Thus has born the question, ‘what should the people who are being led do to excel in this process?’  Ram introspected on this deeply…

It dawned on Ram that the foremost thing to do was to understand the vision of the organization.  Once the vision is understood, he will be able to support the organization in all the means possible to achieve it.  It is a shared vision.  The leader concocted the vision, and the subordinates should follow the same.

The leader takes certain decisions.  There is no certainty whether these decisions would fail or succeed.  Bridging the gap between certainty and uncertainty would be reality.  When the gap widens, the follower should accept the difference between the perceived notion and the reality with faith in the leadership.

Every decision taken by the leader need not be in favour of the subordinates, yet it is part of the subordinates’ responsibility to take it in a stride.  The latter need not agree on the decision, yet they would implement the decision in full gusto because their role is to act on the decisions taken.

The subordinates would voice their opinions with the full understanding that their opinions are heard and due respect is given.  They can be opinion makers, but not decision makers.  There might be disagreement before the decision is taken, but once the leadership mantle decides, there is only a single direction.

As individuals who are being led, the subordinates would respect the process that has been implanted to support the management’s decision, and not shortcut the process. The subordinates should be willing to learn from the thought process of management and not be critics of the management.  After all, it is the management that will have the bigger picture.

In the case of a commercial organization, what is required is to voice the employee’s thoughts and abide by the management decision.  In the case of a spiritual organization, the followers would go with surrender and faith, which the leader evokes.  In a charitable organization, although there would be a leader, the purpose drives the followers.  In a political organisation, the leader’s ideology drives the thought process and actions.  Every organization has leaders.  The followers would hold the hand of the leader and say, ‘Lead us’.

If the leaders and the followers understand this well, then it is the smoothest way to success.  Ram understands that he is not a leader, but he is willing to hold the hand of the leader and be led.

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