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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.

Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...

And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Good "Following" as Compared to Good "Leading"

This is not about dancing, believe it or not. Obviously I may draw on the analogy of dance for this topic, but I want to discuss a less obvious point of view.

How many books are out there on Leadership? Being Number One, How to be Successful, Business Management, Bosses.

Well I'm in what they call middle management at work. And I have an ax to grind, and this is my soap box, so I'm going to rant here. By the way this rant has been brewing for probably eight to ten years.

It is easy to sit back and criticize a leader. The leader is in the spotlight and also near or at the top of the pyramid. All the leaders can say they learned what to do and what not to do from bosses they had to work for or report to when they were not yet the boss. Kind of like parenting, for some. In any case I'd like to shine the spotlight the other direction for a few paragraphs. (This is not aimed specifically at anyone I currently supervise, btw)

What kind of follower are you? Are you easy to manage, or a challenge? Do you respond well to coaching? Are you prickly or insensitive or do you always play devil's advocate or do you misbehave or push buttons or rattle cages? Would *you* want to manage you?

It's so cozy to sit in the group section and bitch about the boss's short-comings, and let's be honest every boss has them (being human and all). But when was the last time you asked yourself how you would feel in their shoes? Or maybe you are quite capable of doing their job, or doing it better than they do...but does that mean you can't try to see why they might be acting the way they do? How many times in life do we think and judge and say to ourselves "I would never do x,y,z" only to find out more information later which allows us to better understand and justify doing the exact same thing? Too many times, certainly in my case. I used to be pretty judgey, but now I see whys and wherefores and I do my best to suspend judgement and try to avoid the moaning and complaining because it serves no purpose.

Also, when you think someone else needs to lighten up or loosen up, you might want to ask yourself whether your behavior engenders trust. What's the track record? Are you showing up late and leaving early? Are you nodding off in meetings, or forgetting tasks assigned to you? Because guess what? A supervisor/manager person can lighten up when deadlines are being met and your antics aren't getting him or her chewed out by their boss.

If you think someone could be more organised, maybe you can offer to help or ask intelligent (non-accusatory) questions that help steer things in the right direction without insulting the person.

Whatever you can critique is probably something that leader is already aware is an issue/struggle/challenge, so they may be sensitive about it. Are you a supportive person cheering them on to grow and meet their potential, or are you tripping them up on their path?

Be the kind of team member they need, be the kind of follower that observes without judgment, be the kind of person you would want to manage. Be part of the solution, not another fire to be put out or another 'problem' or issue to resolve.

They say praise is supposed to flow down, and complaints flow up, which is nice in theory. But guess what? Praise is appreciated by everyone, and complaints are not to be confused with training/coaching and coaching in my world can go both directions as well. I have learned a great deal from my boss, but even more from my co-workers and students.

screw the pyramid. just be nice to each other, and don't treat someone as if their title defines who they are as a person. and let's all try to make each other's jobs easier.


  1. I've always preferred bosses who knew what my job was, then left me alone to do it.
    Give me my list, let me know if anything needs to be changed, and you won't hear from me unless I have a problem.
    I have nothing but nice things to say about people like that that I've worked for.

    1. Yes, that sounds like the best scenario to me too. It implies trust (both ways) and avoids some of the pitfalls.