Followship

Some ancient shepherd or goat herder is probably at fault, having first equated human and animal behavior. The act of following is not always the mindless mimicry of herd animals, however. It is often skillful—both essential and prerequisite to leadership.

Language fails us here; there is no word in our vocabulary for skilled following. Yet its existence is very much in evidence. A popular and graphic example is viewed by millions on Monday evenings—ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”, now in its 14th season.

An important fundamental of ballroom dancing is something called “following sensitivity”. The exquisite fluidity of two people moving as one unit, transferring the energy of movement through one another requires a strong lead and a follow that can meet it. When connection and responsive expression reach that level; when the interplay of will and willingness rises to the level of art, we recognize something beautiful and profound on display before us.

Respect is due those who can follow directions or follow a dream. It’s a relational skill that the best leaders master. It enables them to inspire and facilitate others so achievement that takes more than one can be realized. We do have a word for following dedicated to our highest ideals: Discipleship. Should we not honor its humbler antecedent that enriches us in so many ways?

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

— Bill Gates