Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Creating Followership

Volume: July 2014

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


Raymond admires Ivan’s leadership abilities. The two leaders have worked for the same company for eight years and have collaborated on a number of projects and initiatives. During that time Raymond, a capable leader, has struggled with creating buy-in and enthusiasm with his team during turbulent times and regarding tougher projects. Ivan on the other hand, has seemingly experienced no problems with leading his team through troubled waters or engaging their efforts during tough projects. The end results are acknowledged kudos that Ivan’s team is consistently more productive than Raymond’s. In addition, the positive impact of Ivan’s team on the organization has netted Ivan several promotions that have distanced him from Raymond’s level of management – a level they once shared. What magic touch does Ivan possess that Raymond somehow lacks? The answer, my friends is not magic. The answer lies in Ivan’s ability to create followership


Good old Webster’s defines followership as “the ability or willingness to follow a leader.” Those leaders who enjoy followership can savor something more valuable than gold. In fact, in his search for gold, Raymond dissected Ivan’s ability to create followership. Along the way, he learned about six qualities that Ivan possesses.


  1. Consistency. Ivan is as steady as they come. When team members have excelled, Ivan consistently rewards them – and the act of rewarding is very public. When team members make costly errors, they have come to expect a private conversation with Ivan. The conversation focuses on facts, and the desired corrective actions are always specific. In fact, Ivan is so consistent with his leadership that when things happen (good or bad) when he is away, his team members joke about how he will react. Sure enough, when Ivan returns he always reacts as predicted, much to the delight of his team. An important note: What Ivan’s consistency has led to is leadership in absenteeism. What I mean by this is that even when he is away, Ivan’s values and his leadership culture, still govern his team’s behavior.

  3. Coaching. Ivan’s team members tease him that he has a coaching problem. He seems to always be coaching. He notices the little things and frequently complements team members on things they are doing right. Even on the items that they are supposed to be doing right in the first place! When he notices results or behaviors that are not up to his standard, he is quick to privately mention the unsatisfactory outcomes to the team member. He also consistently cites the impact of the results on the team, as well as the specific outcomes he expects in the future. He is exuberant when praising, and calm when correcting. In other words, Ivan is a master at delivering effective feedback.

  5. Courage. Six years ago Ivan experienced some unfortunate health issues stemming from a non-work accident. Many people in similar circumstances do not recover from what Ivan faced. His team visited him in the hospital and they were very concerned about his condition at the time. From the time he saw his team, his family, his friends, Ivan was consistent with his message: I am going to work again; I am going to get my life back. What courage. Ivan sent a focused, consistent message to everyone he knew that nothing could keep him down. And nothing has. It should be noted that he did not need a catastrophic event to display his courage; he exhibits that same courageous behavior when times are tough at work. And you know what? His people follow his lead. They heed his words and direction because they believe in him.

  7. Combativeness. Ivan is a very nice person. But those who know him are not lulled into a false sense of Kumbaya by Ivan. He is not afraid to mix it up for things he believes are needed or are right. What separates Ivan from many leaders who are perceived as combative is the fact that Ivan possesses good judgment. He knows how to pick his battles. And when he chooses a battle, he goes about resolving conflict in a strategic way – he seeks to have every side win.

  9. Compassion. Empathy flows from Ivan. He has the ability to place himself in the other person’s position and to therefore, look at situations from different perspectives. He makes some unusual decisions as a result. But ultimately, his consistent sense of fairness plays out as the right path to have taken. Ivan has not always been so compassionate. It is an emotional intelligence trait that he has worked on a great deal over the years. He is a leader seeking to constantly improve himself, as well as his team and their results.

  11. Creativity. Long ago Ivan embraced the fact that the business world changes quickly and you are either on the bus for change or you are off it. He seeks to not only be on the bus, but he likes to drive. As such, he constantly searches for fun, innovative ways to reward his team members. He participates in formal brainstorming sessions with his team and their clients in order to glean fresh ideas that can yield competitive advantage. Because he is consistently creative, Ivan’s team is consistently energized. They do not know what new things he will come up with, they just know he will consistently surprise them – pleasantly so.   


Bottom Line: Creating followership is a process. It calls for leaders to be creative, yet consistent. Creating followership also challenges leaders to coach team members and to not be shy about resolving difficult situations. Outstanding leaders are intentional about creating followership. They value the productivity it enables, and savor the outstanding results it delivers for their teams.



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