Leadership is found in many forms and is taught and learned in many fashions. The following is an unconventional method of teaching leadership, but no less effective if applied properly. If you have studied a lot about leadership but have been unable to translate that into a successful command, maybe it is time to think outside the box and try a different approach.
Gaining the trust and confidence of a crew is a vital part of a successful command. In the past, the commander would say it and the crew would do it. He/she would take it upon their own shoulders of getting the crew on board of an operation or fail trying. For better or worse, today’s firefighter questions everything, leading to a more challenging assignment for the leader. It doesn’t matter the reason, what does matter is that you recognize the new generation learns differently.
When presenting a new idea, a leader must be prepared to give clear instructions to the group. One way he/she can do this is by employing the help of their crew from the very beginning. All it may take is one person strong enough to follow. Take, for instance, a party on the beach. Live music, a lot of food and drink, and a lot of people. Let’s say the leader wants everyone to start dancing. This first part is the hardest for the leader because they must be prepared to be the first one to start. This person must be brave enough to put themselves out there in front of everyone and start dancing. Just like presenting a new idea to the group, you, the leader, must present it in a simple way that is easy to follow, demonstrating what he or she wants from the group. Now, all it takes is that one person to follow to get the ball rolling.
This first person, or what we will call the first follower, has the most crucial of roles since they will show everyone else how to follow. It is also important for the leader to embrace this person as an equal because it’s not just about the leader anymore, it’s about the good of the group, plural. Hopefully the first follower is as brave as the leader because it takes guts to be the first follower. This person will stand out and risk ridicule just as the leader did. Being a first follower is an underappreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms the lone idea into a group thought and reinforces the leader’s message. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that really makes the fire. Next comes the second follower. This is a turning point. He/she is proof the first has done their job. Now there is not just the leader alone with his/her idea, nor is it two, it is three, and three is a crowd and gets people’s attention.
A movement or idea must be public, making sure everyone in the group sees more than just the leader. Everyone also needs to see the followers because new followers emulate followers not the leader. Soon it won’t be just one or two to follow but three or four or more because the idea first presented by the leader has gained momentum. This is the tipping point because now we have a movement. As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky. If they were on the fence before there is no reason not to jump onboard now. They won’t stand out, they won’t be ridiculed, and they will be part of the in-crowd if they hurry. Soon the rest of the members that prefer to be part of the crowd will eventually join in so that they will not be left out or ridiculed themselves for not joining in. This is how a movement is made.
Let’s recap what we just learned. If you are a version of the first person dancing all alone, remember to nurture the first few followers as equals making everything about the idea, not about you. Be public and be easy to follow. The biggest lesson here is that leadership can be over glorified. Yes, it started with you dancing alone on the beach, and you will get all the credit, but you must realize what really happened in this scenario. It was the first follower that transformed you into a leader. There is no movement without the first follower. We are told we all need to be leaders but that would be really ineffective. Sometimes the best way to get your crew onboard is to courageously follow and show others how to follow when the situation presents itself. The next time a new idea or concept is presented to you, be prepared to get onboard. Lead by example, not by authority.
This article is based largely on a presentation by Speaker Derek Sivers who is an American writer, musician, programmer, and entrepreneur. I highly recommend you research his name and discover his many other wonderful pieces of work he has created. Http://sivers.org
By John Hicks