Every Leader is a Follower Too

Let’s be honest, when people say “leader” they really mean manager or someone in the c-suite. Next, people think if these folks could become better listeners, build trust, reveal their failures, do the thing and everyone will follow, etc. then the trickle-down cultural effect will be amazing. Well, it’s not. Like you, I’ve been reading this kind of stuff 10x a day, every day… for like 10 years now. So why aren’t leaders changing? Why isn’t this new way the norm rather than the exception by now?

Here’s why. It’s the system. Either the system they subscribe to or the system that’s imposed on them. The system is just org design things like rewards, recognition, measures, value, etc. A simple truth is that most “leaders” got to where they are by understanding these systems. They mastered them. Now YOU want them to change and go against the system that sustains them. Your efforts at influencing might get some small actions but once they deviate too much or too fast, especially in the very large orgs, the system will pull them right back.

Maybe we’re aiming for the wrong target. Maybe we should focus less on trying to directly change individual behaviors and first focus more on the systems they follow. So if the maxim is true that every leader has followers, well then even a “leader” is a follower of something. Aim a little higher.