You Can't Lead Without Followers

You Can’t Lead Without Followers

You may have a clear vision for your team or organisation; you may have the skills and where-with-all to create the structures to manifest that vision. However if you don’t have rapport with your team, if trust is not present, then you have to rely on authority to lead.

Are you really leading?

Using authority is not leading, it’s bossing people around. It may look like you have followers, but when you’re not around keeping an eye on them, guess what, they’re probably not following.

You cannot lead without followers, and followers are going to be thin on the ground if they sense you don’t understand or listen to them.

So honestly ask yourself, do you know and understand your team?

Can You Stand In Someone Else’s Shoes?

Like an actor stepping into and embodying a character, a leader needs the flexibility to switch perspectives. Just as the best actors completely embody a character by ‘looking-as’ them, skillful leaders are able to see things by standing in someone else’s shoes. This is a key component to leading.

“When two people talk with mutual respect and listen with a real interest in understanding another point of view, when they try to put themselves in the place of another, to get inside their skin, they change the world, even if it is only by a minute amount, because they are establishing equality between two human beings.”

Theodore Zeldin

Before you can switch perspectives however, the first thing you have to do is let go of the structures that hold you preferencing your preference. That is: your needs; your outcomes; your ideals; your thoughts; your feelings; your beliefs; your values; and your identity.

Can You Let Go of Your Perspective?

Are you able to temporarily take on someone else’s beliefs; look from their perspective; hold their values; use their history as your reference points; take on their identity; their structures; their thinking patterns? It is through listening, rapport and supporting that you will get to understand others.

Don’t Stop There

Leading is not just about understanding others, it’s about standing under them and fully experiencing things through their eyes. The major move to here is seeking to understand the other’s perspective better than they do, to the extent that you could out argue it for them. When you get this right, others will be saying ”Yes that’s exactly what I mean” (and they’ll be thinking “This person gets me.”)

Why Is Perceptual Flexibility Important?

You Can’t Lead Without Followers

In demonstrating that you see and fully comprehend another’s perspective (inter-subjective perspective), you validate their experience and create rapport. Any struggle they may have experienced in trying to be heard can be dropped. One of the fastest ways to create rapport is to deeply listen to another, especially if you can demonstrate that you have a better understanding of their perspective than they do.

If you can fully inhabit their world, and simultaneously hold other perspectives (subjective, objective and inter-objective), you’ll be able to see things they may have missed, and now have the relatedness to be able to point to and discuss any blind spots.

But until you as a leader can experience what another’s subjective experience is actually like, you can’t lead them. Leading is understanding the other, because if there is no understanding, and they don’t get that you get them, there is no following.

In Conclusion

You can’t lead without followers. Great leaders have the flexibility to step into other people’s shoes so they can see and understand their perspective, whilst simultaneously holding broader perspectives. This ability allows them to speak to the unseen and maintain rapport.

If you’d like to explore these ideas further and start unleashing your full potential as a leader, click here to book in for a 30-45 minute no-obligation Discovery Coaching Session now.


Written by Soo Balbi

Soo is a behavioural expert and one of Australia’s leading Developmental Coaches who helps women thrive. Soo assists her clients to cut to the heart of any challenge, enabling choices and possibilities previously unavailable.

Integral Leadership Coaching Sydney

Get in touch with UXL Coaching today.


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