Thursday, July 11, 2013

Leading and following

In watching competitive reality shows, I often hear participants criticizing a group leader.  It’s a lot of “they don’t have leadership skills” or “they don’t know what they're doing.”  On the other side you have the leader who’s often criticizing people on their own team for not following directions or for trying to usurp leadership.  Sometimes one side is right, or even both, but it's more common that they're both wrong.

What's your style of leadership?  If you prefer a more collaborative process, make sure you know the difference between welcoming input and relying on it.  If you like to take the reins and dictate roles, be careful when handling suggestions so that dictation doesn’t become dictatorship.

How are you as a follower?  Do you wait to be told what to do or try to be proactive?  Can you put the good of the group ahead of yourself for a project or do you voice your disapproval?  Are you someone who can carry out the leader’s directions or do you feel the need to constantly give input?

Personally, I feel like the best solution is to put yourself in the other party’s shoes, not in a theoretical way but a very practical one.  If you’re following someone’s instructions, ask yourself if the way you’re behaving is how you’d like someone else to behave with you in charge.  If you’re leading a group, ask yourself if you’d like to be led in a similar way.  Granted, sometimes what works for you doesn’t always work for everyone else, but this mindset can help you be aware of what mannerisms you’re exhibiting, regardless of your role.

There have been many times where I just wanted to tell someone in charge my opinion on what would make a drill/song/exercise/you-name-it easier, but I learned to ask myself if it really needed to be said and if it was going to make things better or worse.  There have been (and still are) times when I’m in charge and ask what a group wants to do, but then have to make a decision because people are either offering too much input or too little.

It's not just a taiko thing; I mean I teach a lot more in karate than I do in taiko.  It's a group thing; a people thing.  It’s also rarely a black and white situation.  Even a really good leader will have a bad day, and even the most reliable follower might react unfavorably.  You might also have a leader who can really use perspective from another voice or a follower who needs to remember they’re not in charge.  Both of those can be handled in ways that make things better or worse for everyone involved.

Sometimes it's hard to lead, but it can be equally hard to follow.  How can you make it easier for the person or people on the other side?

(artwork: Delacroix, 1830)

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