Good leaders must be good followers. That is paradoxical, isn’t it? This article from CNNMoney.com chronicles an M.B.A. students journeys from grad school to the Marines to a tour of duty in Iraq and back to grad school. It is a fascinating first-hand account (h/t to JustSell.com).
This is profound (emphasis mine):
In many ways there’s probably no better preparation I could have had for the business world than joining the Marine Corps. The Marines teach you how to be both a leader and a follower.
I don’t have to lead in every situation – but I’ve come to enjoy stepping up in a time of chaos. When I’m working with a group now, I can honestly say that I think about the team first. The “I first” approach has been drilled out of me.
Therein lies a common problem I encounter with business leaders – they are not good followers. Leadership has a way of removing empathy over time. Some leaders forget what they personally experienced when they were in follower positions. Other leaders develop what I refer to as “god complexes” where they believe they are all-knowing. Usually they are not, but you can’t illustrate that point to them.
For instance, I know of one business owner who is a subject-matter expert in his field. Unfortunately, that field is not a business field. However, he believes his subject-matter expertise transcends the subject into business management. His employees, some of whom do have business expertise, attempt to contribute to him in these areas. He will not receive the input. Instead he forges on making independent decisions that have cost the business dearly.
If you read the entire article you will see a unique process, employed by the Marines, to teach team-building amongst leaders. The best sales leaders I have encountered are the ones who know how to empower their employees, direct through difficult situations and make the tough decisions at critical junctures.
That last sentence sounds trite, but it is true. The gist of it is the opening sentence of this post – good leaders must be good followers.