I love the idea of leadership. I love being in charge. I love inspiring others toward a common goal. I love the title of a leader. It’s attractive, it’s sexy, it makes me feel like I’m making a difference in this life and that I’m influential.
What’s not so sexy is the idea of “follow-ship” (Follower-ship? I think I just made that word up, but oh well). Following a leader. Following in someone else’s footsteps instead of paving your own way. Working behind-the-scenes to accomplish a goal that is put in place by a leader. It is the opposite of what I innately desire, the opposite of what my brain wants me to do in order to feel like I have some significance in this life. I have read many books on leadership. I’ve gone to seminars on leadership. I’ve only ever thought about being a leader. AND I think it’s super trendy right now to develop your leadership qualities (which is great!), but where do I get training on great follow-ship? And what does that even mean!?
As my husband and I gear up for many changes and transitions in our lives – from having a baby, me transitioning into being a mom, and starting to expand on our real estate team with our first hires – we are being forced to look at this idea of teamwork and how we approach a situation in which we are not the leader, or where we really shouldn’t be leaders even though we want to be. Specifically for me, I know it’s time for me to cut back on my many responsibilities and even areas of leadership if I want to be the best mom I can be. It is an incredibly hard transition, but one that is further shaping me into a more well-rounded person in the new roles that God has put me in.
One area that is continuing to develop my follow-ship skills is my marriage to my wonderful husband Zach. It is incredibly difficult for me to trust someone else’s leadership. Growing up, my mother taught me to question things – don’t just go with the flow. Know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Question who you are following and make decisions for yourself. I am so grateful for parents that taught me to be a strong woman and developing these qualities in me, and I’m also working on developing qualities of trust and teamwork. Man, is it tough for me. 🙂
The truth is – in order to have a successful team, not everyone can be a leader. And there is still honor and respect in being a great follower. In our marriage, I want my husband to be the leader of the household. This does not mean that I bow down to his every command (LOL) or that I’m a doormat. It means my thoughts and desires are well-respected, he encourages me to be better, he honors me as his teammate, he is grateful for my service to our little family…and he is the one who has the final say on decisions we are having a tough time agreeing on. Gah! (I realize this may not be the situation for you, but I believe the lessons I’m learning can apply to many areas of life). It is very easy for me to follow his lead and trust his decision-making in our finances and any decisions that relate to our business. What’s more difficult is learning to yield to him when there have been issues that I feel very strongly about or have more experience with (like what diapers we’ll use for Baby, what I want in our “family team”, or what constitutes a healthy meal – LOL). What has helped us work together as a more successful team is learning when to be a FOLLOWER. Here are a couple things we’ve been thinking about this week:
Humility : We’ve got to check our pride at the door – which is so hard! Sometimes pride can be pretty sneaky – it makes me think I’m right, that I know everything, and it blocks me from hearing others’ point of view. While it’s extremely difficult, working to remain humble and realize that I don’t know everything has been hugely impactful in being a good listener to my husband, and learning to trust him in his leadership – which in turn frees us both to assume the roles that best serve our relationship.
Trust : It is very hard to trust someone if you don’t know them. For us, trusting involves fully knowing my partner’s integrity. With a close relationship full of open communication, it helps to remind me of my husband’s values which helps me trust him even if it is hard for me in the moment. When I work to trust my partner more (or manager or boss – depending on which situation you’re applying this to), it’s much easier to be a good (and happy) follower.
Communication : It never fails – communication is KEY! We attend a marriage group at our church once a month, and last week we discussed what this communication can look like in more detail with a scale from 1-10 to rate the importance of a certain issue. For me, I care a lot about my health. Zach doesn’t think about his health as much as I do, so sometimes we can butt heads on what to have for dinner or if we should get a gym membership. We realized that his level of importance on the issue didn’t match mine, and we had to talk that out together. When he realized how much this issue meant to me, it was much easier for him to make it more of a priority. This idea has helped us be humble and considerate of our teammate’s feelings, has helped us trust each other, and has helped us communicate more clearly what our needs are.
Using the above thoughts is enabling me to bring my guard down and be a good follower. I still have to work on the pride issue and wanting to be independent and do things my way, but opening my mind up to new ideas and trusting the moments when I’m meant to follow has helped me experience less stress and more enjoyment in my marriage and in life.