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Friday, February 26, 2010

Ten Rules of Good Followership

How does one become a good follower? This is a responsibility no less important than that of leadership––in fact it enables good leadership––yet it is often ignored. 

The nature of leadership can perhaps be best understood by turning the coin over and studying followership. Why do people follow leaders? If we can understand this, then we will be a long way down the road to creating those followers and hence becoming an effective leader. People don't just follow anyone. You can't just say 'follow me' and expect people to follow out of the goodness of their hearts. You have to give them good reason for them to follow. Moreover, it is likely that all of us will be followers more often than we will be leaders!

Here then are our Ten Rules of Good Followership gleaned from experience:

  1. Don’t blame your boss for an unpopular decision or policy; your job is to support, not undermine.
  2. Argue with your boss if necessary; but do it in private, avoid embarrassing situations, and never reveal to others what was discussed.
  3. Make the decision, then run it past the boss; use your initiative.
  4. Accept responsibility whenever it is offered.
  5. Tell the truth and don’t quibble; your boss will be giving advice up the chain of command based on what you said.
  6. Do your homework; give your boss all the information needed to make a decision; anticipate possible questions.
  7. When making a recommendation, remember who will probably have to implement it. This means you must know your own limitations and weaknesses as well as your strengths.
  8.  Keep your boss informed of what’s going on in the team; people will be reluctant to tell him or her their problems and successes. You should do it for them, and assume someone else will tell the boss about yours.
  9.  If you see a problem, fix it. Don’t worry about who would have taken the blame or who now gets the praise.
  10. Put in more than an honest day’s work, but don’t ever forget the needs of your family. If they are unhappy, you will be too, and your job performance will suffer accordingly.
See also, The New Psychology of Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power. In this book, the authors write; 'The development of a shared identity is the basis of influential and creative leadership. If you control the definition of reality, you can change the world.'


The Winning Mentality

'While evaluating international teams for CONCACAF (FIFA's regional leadership arm) in the Gold Cup, a tournament of National Teams, I was interviewing the national coaches from Mexico, Canada and China. They told me that what distinguishes the Americans from other countries is their winning mentality. The USA players have an enormous will to succeed, and it is very respected.

This mentality is a description of the strength of your psychological dimension. It involves your capacity to reach down inside and find your inner hardness. It's what happens when you emerge triumphant from any physical duel or combative situation. The winning mentality is partly optimism, but mostly it's a combination of focus, pride, competitive anger, relentlessness, hardness, fitness and courage - all of the most descriptive words for competitive athletics. This type of mentality is not about your skills or tactics. What it comes down to is intense desire. To get this winning edge, you need to build an indomitable will. This means you must be relentless; you must never give up.

What I love about this mentality is that it's not a talent; it's not part of a genetic code you're either born with or not. It's a choice, a decision you make to develop it. It is not an easy choice, but it is what is going to elevate you from the ordinary player. The question is: can you make the choice to be indomitable? Of course, having this mentality doesn't guarantee winning, but it's a quality that gives you the incredible strength, power and hardness that is an element in every consistent winner. You are already aware of our emphasis on one v. one at UNC. We use one v. one as the best training ground for developing the winning mentality. That's because it embodies all of the qualities mentioned above.

The winning mentality is the defining aspect of the National Team and UNC players. But that doesn't mean they have this trait as soon as they get here. Our players are still a work in progress. Most young players are. I can see this in my evening talks on the winning mentality at summer camp. This mentality requires a domination in both practice and games. The girls nod their heads yes when I'm talking about this, but I know what most of them are thinking: That's not me.

We joke with our players all the time (remember the importance of a laugh?). We tell them that we know women have evolved to a higher level - they know their relationships are more important than soccer. That's absolutely true, we say, but forget that for the 90 minutes it takes you to win the game!'