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 a 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 organisation under the vision of a single mind might be useful. 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 has to be greater than the rate of change in the marketplace.

An organisation that is aligned around the mindset of a single leader fails this test. So leaders who create followers are reducing the capacity of their organisation to find and implement new ways forward.

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

This brings a new issue: how to coordinate the parts? How to chose which opportunity to pursue? 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 shared way forward by aligning the organisation around shared purpose and values. They might even follow multiple opportunities at once, increasing their upside and reducing their risk.

Leaders who create more leaders turn their organisation from a single supertanker into a fleet of speedboats. When we’re dodging multiple obstacles, this is useful.

Leaders who create more leaders, increase the capacity of their people to lead themselves and the organisation through change.

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

Do the people around you encourage you to become a better follower or a better leader? What do you encourage in other people? Which approach is likely to 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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