Followers are often better teachers than leaders

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Followers and Leaders

Welcome to “Athlos” a weekly blog which examines pillars of personal excellence and regularly brings together the worlds of Christian spirituality and sport.

Leaders teach

“I just watched him closely and he taught me a lot of little tricks, pointers, the footwork.”-Rui Hachimura, L.A. Lakers

“I see a lot in him…I call him my understudy.”-Lebron James, L.A. Lakers

Followers teach more

The above excerpts, recently recorded by ESPN, tell the story of leaders and followers, listening and learning. Lebron James, the global basketball superstar, took Rui Hachimura under his wings. Rui was the understudy, Lebron, the mentor. This scenario reflects the usual position that we see where the leader does the teaching and the follower does the learning.

Interestingly, though, those who follow also have a lot to teach those who lead. If we remain attentive and open, those of us who lead can learn wonderful lessons from those whom we lead. Put another way, followers are sometimes the best teachers. What do I mean?

You see, those whom we lead often expose our true inner character. Parents, for instance, can easily descend into unmerited grumpiness, impatience and irritability with their children. I am guilty as charged. At home, there is no one to impress so we drop our guard. As they say: “who we are at home is who we really are.”

Something similar can happen at the office. Bosses may talk to their subordinates with an arrogant tone, conscious that they have the power to command and give instructions. Ambitious managers are tempted to stop seeing their staff as fellow humans but rather as mechanisms to help them accomplish their career goals. Ironically, somehow, we treat those “above” us differently, with courtesy, respect and admiration.  This is why I say that we can often learn more from those we lead than from those who lead us.

The solution is simple: Never stop being a student. Even as a leader, be intentional about also being a follower. Remain coachable and responsive. Listen to others, especially those who are “under” us. They teach us lessons that no podcast, YouTube video or Instagram post can. The core ingredient is humility.

Follow first, then lead

Once we master the art of following, then we are ready to lead.

If you were inspired by this blog, please consider sharing it with one other person today. To learn more about these and other related themes that promote the cultivation of an integrated inner self, read UNBEATABLE! which is available on Amazon in print and as an e-book.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Michelle Marcus

    Thank you. Well said. So true on so many fronts. In the home and in the workplace. Posture of being a student is key to growth. It’s important to not just love teaching others but also even more importantly, love learning from those we teach as well.

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