Ray’s an engineer. He’s worked for the same company
since he graduated from college in 1974 and he does great work. The company has
asked him several times to become an engineering supervisor or team leader.
Ray’s said “No” every time.
Ray likes being an engineer. He loves the work and he’s good at it. Julie’s
different, for her, the work’s OK, but she really loves the people she works
with. Her company has asked her to become a “leader.” Julie likes it where she
is. She does good work every day.
With all the hype and hokum about leadership, it’s easy to forget that there
are people out there like Julie and like Ray. They show up on time, do good
work, help each other out, and go home at the end of the day. There are millions
of them out there. They’re good followers.
Without followers there would be no leaders. About the only definition no one
argues with is that a leader is someone who has followers, people like Ray and
They make a choice about who they follow. Both of them have had bosses over
the years who got their compliance, but never earned their commitment.
If you’re a boss, you have to earn that commitment. It’s a beautiful thing
when it happens. The team is productive and morale is high. Great work gets
But it’s not automatic. It doesn’t come with a title. You have to convince
them that you can help the team and every one of them succeed and do better. You
have to earn their trust. It’s worth the effort.
Boss’s Bottom Line
Without followers, you’re not a leader. You’re just noise.