Friday, December 6, 2013

The Art and Practice of Followership

These days we have an increased interest in Leadership and its development. Almost every organization wants to improve and nurture this capability within its employees. Lately I have come to see a little more practical truth in the other way around as well. I call this concept – ‘Followership’. Though not an expert in commenting on the art and practice of Leadership, I like to shed the light on my own definition of what I mean by ‘Followership’.
We do demand initiative, responsibility from almost everyone. But I have come to understand that we do need people who would conform and do the tasks assigned to them, before critiquing on it. I agree that we shouldn’t be all blind followers of orders, but on the other hand we may require enough understanding of our tasks and it’s fitting into the big picture of it before we may resist it. We need to appreciate its existence in the first place and then get a firsthand experience of actually accomplishing the task and then take the liberty to reflect upon its outcome.
Here comes that follower, who will do this. He does his work for the sake of work. He doesn’t over-identify himself with it. He is detached. He is not his job description, but never does he fails to accomplish the tasks given to him. He takes initiative; he has the drive of course which helps him complete the task in its best quality. He does take responsibility for the job and could see the big picture of what it could mean. He moves on.
He doesn’t consider any job as menial; he doesn’t think that he is better for his job or that he deserves better. He takes his job at hand as a duty to be performed as citizen of the company, as a contributing member of the society. So he gets paid. He does take his pay, so as to take care of his physical needs and to run his household. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love his job or that he is doing it mechanically or he is doing it for the sake of money. He has in fact chosen his job, for the love of it. Agreed it wasn’t a perfect marriage, but he strives on to achieve that perfection. He sharpens himself against the demands of his job. He moves on.
Steven Pressfield calls this as being a ‘Professional’. The detachment is a magnificent twist in his definition though it’s not implicitly stated by him. I find that resonating with the ancient wisdoms of India. He himself refers to Bhagvat Gita, ‘Do you work and there it ends!’ Swami Vivekananda goes on even criticizing that we are having a mind of trader; to buy and to sell; to give and to take. But he asks us to just give; it may come back to us thousand folds greater. But that shouldn’t be our expectation. We should just give our best.
This mentality I believe will give us the magnanimity not to feel cheated of having high hopes, rather give us even headedness to accept and treat victory and failure alike. This even headedness itself will give us that necessary detachment from our work and reduce our anxiety towards performing. In fact, Swami Vivekananda actually says that this detachment will in fact make us better performers and increase the quality of our work. Though it sounds like a paradox, I personally want to try it.
Great man, a karma yogi, seems to have realized that. He moves on. He continues to do his duty, despite the ups and downs and his limited power and influence. He moves on. He works hard at perfecting himself and in liberating himself. He believes that it is by perfecting himself that he will be able to manifest a greater change in world than by anything. May be that is when, Gandhi must have declared, ‘Be the change you want to see in this world!’ It is no use blaming the others for what is happening around. It is up to us to take up that responsibility in trying to do our bit, our contribution in making this world a better and beautiful world.

May God bless us all!