Many years ago, I had the great honor and pleasure of serving as a civilian psychologist for our active duty Navy and Marine Corps personnel. This was during the early phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was an active time for our military. I won’t use up my time and space here elaborating on all the reasons why it was such an honor and pleasure for me but just take me at my word – amazing experience and an amazing group of people.
Leadership vs. Followership
For today’s purpose, however, I want to call out one of the many values espoused by the military that is tremendously important but often overlooked, particularly in the “civilian world.” That is the value of followership. We all know about leadership and there are innumerable experts offering guidance on how to maximize our leadership impact. But truly effective leadership also requires effective followership. To be clear, followership is not simply blind compliance and it is not just following orders. Like leadership, followership is multi-dimensional and is defined in many different ways. It can be somewhat complex at times. In the spirit of simplicity, however, I like to think of true followership as doing everything one can to ensure their leader is as effective as they can be in their leadership role. The stronger the leader the more effective the mission. The more effective the mission, the more we all win. Therefore, we all have a part to play in making our leaders stronger in service of the overall mission.
One way we can fulfill our obligation to our leaders in ensuring they are as strong as they can be is through providing them feedback. Just as feedback is a highly effective and necessary tool for helping us grow and improve, so too is it an effective and necessary tool for helping our leaders grow and improve. Be it positive feedback or critical feedback, we owe it to our leaders to help them understand the impact they are having. Effective leaders know this and will welcome such feedback from those they lead. But if you’ve not been in environments where feedback is encouraged, the thought of giving your leader feedback can be a bit daunting, at best.
In an effort to help guide you, I offer 10 quick tips to help smooth the process:
Naturally, there are myriad of ways to go about delivering feedback to our leaders and the 10 tips provided above are simply suggestions. However, whether you use these tips or not, the challenge going forward is remind ourselves that providing feedback to our leaders in support of helping them be as strong as they can be is one of the primary duties of being strong followers to those leaders. We need to be willing to lean into this duty. Good luck!