Pretty awesome, huh? First glance…. a pretty sophisticated tandem yoga posture. Let me tell you what I learned about leadership while hanging in a suspended backbend.
The yogi performing crow (guy on bottom for yoga newbies), is the leader. He visioned the posture, selected his teammate (me), and facilitated our arrival in this pose through action and communication. He is the strength and foundation that makes this work. He has total responsibility for my safety. The lion’s share of the risk is his.
My role was simply to follow well. This involved allowing him to pick me up by my feet from a handstand, and then waiting in inversion while he entered this tricky balancing posture (difficult even without someone on your back).
Yes, being able to do a backbend is a prereq, but even more importantly was my willingness to trust, follow, and embrace vulnerability – all the while unable to see the end product.
This is so true of what we expect our teams to do. We want them to follow, trust, and engage – even though they have just a slice of the facts & only our word on the desired end state. No one readily follows well until the leader earns their confidence through demonstration of competence, a clearly mapped vision, and the willingness to have their back (in this case, literally). And of course, none of this works without continuous communication that inspires, instructs, and involves.
Napoleon Hill says that followership is a choice. That means our teams have a choice every day – and we should not mistake their “showing up” as a YES or I’M IN! You’ll know they’ve made that choice when they show a desire to move the needle and lean INTO your leadership. But to know this, you have to slow down enough to observe, listen, & be present for people. In other words, know when to follow their lead so that you may lead them more effectively.