I'm rapidly approaching a monumental threshold. The anticipation is building. I can hardly stand it. I'm right on the cusp of something special. Almost there! Any day now I'll cross that glorious summit: 1,000 followers of Twitter! Can you believe it?! It's amazing, I know. Right?
[At this point, you're more than likely either feeling sorry for me, wondering, "Are you seriously this excited about this?" Or even further - if you have any understanding of Twitter - you're thinking, "Do you seriously think all those people are actually FOLLOWING you?" And that's the point of all of this. The answer to that last question is simple: No. So in this world of tweets, Linked-In, retweets, and Google Circles, how do we keep a clear and grounded understanding of following and leading? I think it's worth discussing.]
A couple of years ago I read the book Tribes by Seth Godin. (I actually just asked our staff to read it today. Looking forward to some great conversation over the book.) One of Godin's punch points in the book is: "Without leaders, there are no followers. And everyone - in some sense - is a leader now." While there's part of me that doesn't fully agree with the latter assertion, none of us can argue with the first. If no one's leading, then no one's going to be following. But for those of us who are leading - whether we've been called to lead, equipped to lead, or even forced to lead - how do we quantify if someone is actually a "follower"? Again, I think some of this answer can be found in Godin's ideas in Tribes. You have to start with what "leading" means or implies. Does it mean you dictate and people submit? Or does it mean that you influence others and they actually want to pay attention and consider how it could or should affect or change their behavior &/or destination? It is essential that you determine and define what you consider to be "leading" before you can know if anyone's "following".
Is the Night Shift Manager at Burger King leading? Or is she telling her employees what to do? Are they following? Or just putting up with it so they'll get paid? Don't get me wrong - there are all kinds of people in all kinds of jobs (night shift managers included) who are inspiring, motivating, encouraging, and challenging. The reason: Somewhere along the line they determined and decided to lead people - to influence - not just manipulate or manage them. There's a BIG difference!
So back to my monumental Twitter mark: What's the point? How do I quantify 992 "followers"? Or that I'm "following" 865 people. Am I really? Following them? Well, in the sense that many of them influence, encourage, challenge, affirm, and inspire me - YES. And that's why you have to begin with HOW you define leading. I see so many on Twitter who are shamelessly and feverishly working to get more followers. I would challenge and encourage them to ask themselves, "Why"? If we all start following you, what are you going to influence us to do? How are you going to inspire us? Or motivate us? Or are you just going to be like the rest of the noise and try to sell us something that we really don't need? That's not leadership. That's annoying!
What's your definition of leadership?