Obeying and Leading, the Two Sides

Ink on Gel Printed Paper – Words: Benjamin Franklin

Not all followers make good leaders, and not all leaders make good followers. The challenge arises when a leader begins to believe that they are above obeying the process, the rules, the parameters in which they are leading and thus forget that to command one must first be able to obey.

I have unfortunately experienced this many times in my life. I saw leaders who broke the rules, disregarded the process and even considered themselves above all that because of their title or position. What they brought to that table “warranted a different set of circumstances” than the ones everyone else operated within. I saw a leader take donated funds to pay their home electric bill, saying that “I need to get paid which this time means my light bill.” When asked why they should get paid when everyone was a volunteer, they noted that as the talent they operated at a different standard. Wow! And it was hard to watch their leadership ignore this infraction because they needed them to do the job. Wow again!

I saw an employee discover an executive inappropriately using a company credit card. They reported it to their boss and it went all the way up the chain to the CEO. It was dismissed as no big deal. When I asked the CEO why they dismissed it, they sat me down and “explained” (we call this man-splaining now) how it worked. I then reminded them that they were setting an example to everyone down the food chain of how wrong behaviors will be overlooked for some, corrected for others. They then man-splained how naive I was and that I didn’t understand how business really worked. Needless to say that experienced truly opened my eyes and reminded me that leaders who are not able to obey may have a leadership title, yet they are not Leaders.

When we serve in a leadership role we need to remind ourselves that everyone is watching…everyone! How we obey and lead through the rules, parameters, and guidelines speaks volumes to the people in our charge. No one is above obeying and no one is too low on the totem pole to be a leader. The question we have to ask ourselves each day is, “How well am I leading and following, and how do my actions help the group move forward?” When we fail to do both dies – obey and lead – we fail all together.

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