True leaders create leaders, not followers

A woman shows a girl how to use a telescopeSome people believe that leaders need followers. Inner Leadership disagrees.

We believe that:

True leaders create more leaders, not followers.

Followers are dependent — they need to be told what to do. This creates extra workload for the leader. It builds a pattern of dependency that can lead to stagnation as the leader becomes a bottleneck. It reduces the organisation’s ability to change.

When times are stable, aligning the whole organisation under the vision of a single mind might work. But when times are churning, the ability to flex and adapt becomes paramount:

To survive in times of change, the organisation’s ability to change must be greater than the rate of change in the marketplace.

An organisation aligned around a single leader fails this test: leaders who create followers reduce the capacity of their organisation to find new ways forward and to implement them.

But leaders who create more leaders increase the capacity of the organisation to change and to grow. They increase its resilience and agility.

This creates a new issue: how to coordinate the parts? Which opportunities to pursue?

But this is a better problem to have than stagnation. And if the new leaders are true leaders (who also create more leaders) then they will be able to cooperate to find a way or ways forward (by aligning the organisation around purpose and values).

This changes the organisation from a supertanker into a fleet of speedboats.

Leaders who create more leaders, expand their people’s capacity and so the organisation’s capacity to succeed.

Do the people around you encourage you to become a better follower or a better leader? Which do you encourage in other people? Which approach will serve you better over the next 12–24 months?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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