Defining leadership is very difficult. The task of a leader is to get his/her people from where they are to where they have not been. It is also important to note that leadership is defined not only by what it is, but also by what it does. As a matter of fact, one can say that leadership is both action and being.
Leadership empowers, motivates and organises people to achieve a common goal and provides moral guidance. It is a service to the people and a vision for the future. It is also very important to note that whenever leadership is discussed, we must also take into consideration what leadership is. A good leader should be a few steps ahead of his/her team, but not too far for the team to be able to understand and follow them.
One of the very rules for providing effective leadership is understanding the importance of good followers. Being a good follower means that you have enhanced the caliber to be directed and guided by an individual or a collective. It means that you are motivated and highly disciplined in carrying out your responsibilities to completion. Good followers are reliable and dependable people, on whom the leadership can count on.
When I say followers, the intended followers are not passive followers or yes men and women. I am hinting at assertive, critical thinkers who will allow their talents to be used but resist misleading, selfishness and abuse. An aspiring individual can learn the art of effective leadership by being a consistent and committed follower. Everyone has the potential to lead and follow the positive traits of a righteous leader.
As we know everything tends to change after a certain period of time. So, when organisations change and develop, new patterns of leadership might be required. For example, when a sit-in is staged in a school, effective leadership requires patience and right judgement. Furthermore, leadership which takes charge and gives instructions is needed to help a team form around a project. In order to progress towards a shared leadership, we need to pay attention to patterns of change in our organisations at the same time as we become more aware of our own capacities for leadership.
A leader should always have the right followers and the right goal. In the absence of one of these, good leadership cannot be anticipated. One may still have the right followers and the right goal; however, he/she will be unable to mobilise the followers towards the goal set on behalf of the staff, organisation or a particular group of people.
Everyone is not destined to carve out a niche in leading. An appropriate situation is also a must. Many get chances to lead by accident. The rudimentary tools of leadership are available in small groups as well as large ones. The mystery of leadership and followers goes on all around us and within us. Hence, we are all in some measure leaders and followers.
(The writer is an ELT/ founder member of Sustainable Education Group-Nepal and a full member of the Learning Teacher Network, Sweden.)