I was privileged to attend The Greenleaf International Servant Leadership conference in Indianapolis Indiana recently. Robert Greenleaf is the foundation for servant leadership and any worthwhile discussion around it.
The conference was great, and I hope to post a list of takeaways soon. The thing about conferences is that you have to return home and not only work but catch up on what piled while you were gone.
One of the speakers, Cory Bouck, had an intense session on “Followership.” It was humiliating—but good. It was surgical, painful, but even in that pain, you knew you were in the right place doing something that would make you better. I had a painful experience with followership in my past.
Very basically, followership is the art of emptying yourself to serve your boss in an effort to make him or her the best and most effective in their position as you can.
It’s been said that most people who quit a job actually quit their supervisor. I had a boss once that I was ready to quit, but then I read Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey reached out and slapped me across the face.
His followership piece was this: If you have a lousy boss, your job is to make him better. Do all you can to make him shine as your duty. So I did. I went into his office, told him I was going to improve my performance and increase the effectiveness of the program of which I was in charge. Then I kissed him on the forehead.
Yep. That’s what I did. It was like a covenant seal or something—not the Mafia Kiss of Death. It was the mark of a change for something new. Did it work? Yes!
He was still a lousy boss, but I changed. I became better and the program turned into something of excellence. I covered a multitude of his workplace “sins” by serving him and the program. I became mission driven instead of driving for self. I learned a lot.
It wasn’t about me, nor was it about him—but it was higher. It was the mission that mattered. When you focus on that, nothing can stop you.