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How to develop followers through soft leadership skills

Over the course of the next few weeks I will provide insight into how you can develop your followership through soft leadership skills, touching on the use of team-unifying techniques, building rapport and matching and mirroring body language. Before we do this however, let’s discuss what followership is.

Within the last 40 years UK organisations, by developing managed safety systems and procedures, have increased their organisational morale and made enormous strides in creating safer workplaces for all concerned. Nevertheless we are still experiencing some very serious and disturbing incidents. Systems management is simply not enough to reduce such incidents – improved safety leadership is necessary.

It is axiomatic that the quality of leadership depends on the quality of followership. In comparison to ‘leadership’ little is heard about ‘followership’. A focus on followership helps to increase our understanding of leadership; especially within the safety and health arena.

Followership has been defined as “The leadership influence of a manager on subordinates” (Conger et al. 2000). Leaders need followers; without any followers, anybody would have immense difficulty in becoming any sort of leader. The question is ‘What are the best leadership practices to promote healthy followership?’

Many stress-loaded managers I meet want to worry less and lead more effectively in response to our technologically, economically and demographically changing times. For this they need professional leadership techniques that, while assisting them in improving the bottom line, will also generate fewer incidents, accidents, absenteeism and job-dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, job-dissatisfaction is a common symptom of the poor, outdated or inappropriate leadership that results in uninspiring organisational rigidity and counter-productive presenteeism. Combined with rapid changes in technology and an increasingly globalised marketplace, this all loads much more pressure on managers, leaders and companies to perform flexibility and proactively rather than reactively respond to the shifts, twists and turns of very competitive and mercurial markets.

To this end it should be recognised that to achieve strategic organisational goals the common keynote of all leadership and followership decisions must be their ‘unity of purpose’. Such unity breaks down the redundant and counter-productive ‘us and them’ constructs of ‘capital and labour’ and thereby strengthens the whole organisation. The maintenance and development of this unity of purpose is therefore the core-duty of both leadership and followership in mutually-supportive and developmental fellowship.

In next week’s blog I will discuss the soft leadership skills you can work on in order to deal with complex people-issues that we are faced with in the workplace.

Click for further information on the Coaching and Leading Safely (CaLS©) Programme, exclusively designed for managers, leaders, and safety personnel.