Friday, August 5, 2011

Who's more important - the leader or the follower?

Yesterday I started reading Richard Byrne's series of posts on 10 Common Challenges We'll Face This Fall.  Yesterday's post was about access - the challenge teachers face when they find that the websites or tools they need are blocked.  Richard shared tactics he had learned about how he got access to the websites he wanted to use.  I was really interested in the last one (recruit supporters) and in the TEDtalk he went on to share.

In this Derek Sivers talks about how a leader first needs the courage to stand up and potentially face ridicule, but it's important that what the leader is doing is easy for others to follow.  Sivers, however talks more about the first follower - this is the person who will show everyone else how to follow.  He says the leader should embrace the first follower as an equal - so the focus is not on them but on what they are trying to achieve.

Sivers says that being the first follower is actually a form of leadership in itself - it takes courage to stand up with someone who is doing things a little differently.  He says:
The first follower is what transforms the lone nut into a leader.
Another important thing he goes on to say is:
New followers emulate the followers, not the leader.
The early adopters lead to the "tipping point":  as more people join in it's less risky.  Eventually "late adopters" join in - they want to stay with the crowd and are more concerned now about how it will look if they don't join in!

I started thinking today about how this could apply to teaching - specifically how this could apply to a movement we've seen take place at school over the past year - blogging.  At the start of the school year three teachers approached me and asked me to help them set up a blog or their class or after school activity.  These were the first followers at our school - they were all interested in using blogs and using them in different ways and for different reasons.  Sivers says:
Nurture your first followers as equals - it is about the movement - not about you.
One of these teachers went on to introduce blogging to her entire grade at school.  Another posted photos and videos of what her class were doing on an almost daily basis - during the course of the year her class blog had over 3,000 visitors from around the world.  She later turned this blog into a class yearbook.  Another teacher, who started blogging a little later in the school year, showed her class blog to her husband (who is also a teacher) and he not only started his own class blog, but started writing a professional reflective blog as well (click here to go to his Global Initiations blog).  It's certainly true that teachers were encouraged to blog by seeing other, ordinary, non-techie teachers blog - seeing that I could do something did not give homeroom teachers the confidence to try it themselves - after all I should be able to do all the "techie stuff" as I'm head of the department!

The biggest message is that leadership is over-glorified - it was the first follower who was the most important - who had the courage to follow and to show others how to follow - who transformed what was happening into a movement.

This coming year at school, we're all going to be blogging, I think!

Photo Credit:  Pigeon Study by Craig Cloutier  AttributionShare Alike 

1 comment:

  1. Maggie,
    Great post! I love the TED talk and wow...I had never thought of it from that perspective...the first follower is the most important. While we happily embrace ANY follower who is willing to go forward with us at my school, I will try and remember to pay just a little bit more attention to that person! I've been blogging a lot lately about trying to make change a more systematic happening at my school, perhaps our lone followers need a little bit more love. Thanks for giving me something to work on!
    Oh, and we're always open for some more blogging if you know we're implementing it too! :)