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?

11 Responses

  1. You don’t have to be THE leader to be A leader. Your points about how following sometimes can really support you in your leadership really resonate with me. Sometimes the most powerful act of leadership is choosing to follow. And as leaders if we aren’t supporting others in stepping up to the plate to lead, even if it is just for a moment, then I am not sure we are really leading.

    Susan Mazza’s last blog post..The Red Car Theory of Leadership

  2. That’s the beauty of Twitter we can be leaders and followers! (Not that Twitter is the be all and end all but I have learned a LOT there). Thanks for reminding me it’s okay to step up and lead sometimes and to fall back as well.

  3. It’s both a blessing and a curse, but some are born to lead – welcome to it! And you know the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

    The only way great leaders find their voice is by following great leaders. The true compliment comes when those you follow begin to follow you back.

    Great post!


  4. No-one person can ever know every single thing. There’s always someone more experienced than you at something, and there’s always someone more experienced than them as well.

    True leadership means knowing your strengths, accepting your faults, and learning from others no matter their level of *expertise*.

    Nice insights, Ms. Murphy 🙂

    Danny Brown’s last blog post..But I’m Not a Shepherd

  5. I love this post. Im a sort of leader and long time follower.
    In fact Ive found that people are oft surprised when we meet in real life vs twitter or blogging that Id prefer to sit back and suckup the knowledge and listen and LEARN.

    sure Ill eventually chime in if I have something to add—-but Im also aware Ive been around MY block.
    and that’s one block of potential knowledge sharing in a WORLD of knowledge.

    I gots lots of listening to do as well….

    MizFit’s last blog post..Gratitude. Spread the Mood. Last Day O’Freebies. (Go ‘head & Brood.)

  6. You make such a good point here, actually a few. I, like yourself, consider myself to be on the shy side. However, I also seem to end up being the leader in different situations I find myself in. I think my problem is the fact that I like to be in control of my own destiny (maybe that’s not really a problem?) That being said, other people have great ideas as well, and if you don’t sit back and let somebody else take the reigns, you may miss out on some new great idea or way of doing things. Thanks for reminding me of this.

    Jennifer Larson’s last blog post..Supplements That Help Slow Down the Aging Process

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