My middle-of-the-night musings last night revolved around leading and following.
Even though deep down I’m kind of a shy person, I’ve always been somewhat of a leader. Perhaps it’s my way of compensating for my fears, but for some reason, I feel more comfortable spending time at the front of a group than at the back. I lead in a whole bunch of areas of my life. I spend a lot of my time leading my staff and my video crews. I spend a lot of the time at the front of a classroom, leading my students through the mysterious ways of the Internetz. I even spend a certain amount of time leading among my friends – making plans, organizing events, or showing them the inner workings of the latest geeky thing I’ve found online.
I really enjoy the leadership role. The fact that I’ve been around the block a few times professionally and personally has given me a certain confidence in leading others. I find it very satisfying to watch people take whatever it is I’ve led them to and make it successful. But I do sometimes get a bit burnt out from it. It can be exhausting to always be the person that people look to for guidance and answers. It can be hard to keep smiling as your inbox, voicemail and IM chats fill up.
That’s why it’s important to remember that you don’t HAVE to be a leader all the time.
I’ll Follow You Into the Dark. Lately I’ve been working with a few of my good friends who have an interest in learning more social media. I’ve been helping them to navigate these online waters, getting their blogs up and running, introducing them to people on Twitter, and taking them to meetups and Podcamps. It’s wonderful to watch someone get their new media legs. And what I’m finding is that the more they get out there in this world, the more I’m learning from them. They are finding new and innovative ways to interact, and helping me to break out of some of the bubbles I’ve created for myself. Look at what the people you are leading have to offer you. Follow them back. It’s the full circle of leader/follower and the mutual rewards that makes these relationships really work.
Every Leader is Also a Follower. Sometimes, as a leader, you feel a lot of pressure to always have new and interesting information to offer, new teachings, an answer to every question, and advice for all occasions. Sometimes it gets to the point where the well simply dries up. You feel like you don’t have much left to offer. It’s important to remember that even though people are looking to you for answers and advice, that you too, have resources you can draw on. No matter how high up on the chain of leadership you are, there is always going to be someone with more (life or professional) experience than you. Call them mentors, call them inspirations, whatever – these are your leaders. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Read their books. Don’t forget that you don’t have to be a leader all the time. It’s okay, and highly advisable, to follow too.
Ultimately, the best leaders are those who also know how to be good followers. They are the ones who know when to turn to others for advice. They are the ones who know that oftentimes their followers are really the ones with all the wisdom and experience. In the end, it’s about finding out what kind of leader you want to be.
So who are you going to follow now?