Thursday, November 8th, 2018

I’ve Been Thinking About Followership

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Last year, I again had the chance to visit the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I had been there a couple of times before but it has been quite a few years ago and this was the first time I had visited the actual visitor’s center.

The Center provides great information and outside there is a walkway that brings you to a spectacular view of the U.S. Air Force Academy Chapel (the inside is simply breath-taking).

At the visitor center, I learned that the program at the Academy is guided by the Air Force’s core values of “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do”, and based on four “pillars of excellence”: military training, academics, athletics, and character development.

I was also able to read about the cumulative responsibilities that cadets are taught as they move through their 4-year education. Yes, they are taught (and developed into) leaders. And, they are also taught followership.

Fourth Class – Freshman Year

  • Demonstrate assertive followership skills
  • Prepare to be instructors of the next fourth class

Third Class – Sophomore Year

  • Demonstrate effective instructional skills
  • Prepare to be supervisors in the cadet wing
  • Exemplify assertive followership skills

Second Class – Junior Year

  • Demonstrate effective supervisory skills
  • Prepare to be cadet officer-leaders in the cadet wing
  • Exemplify effective instructional and assertive followership skills

First Class – Senior Year

  • Demonstrate effective leadership and officership skills
  • Prepare to be commissioned officers in the US Air Force
  • Exemplify effective supervisory, instructional, and followership skills

Notice how each year builds on the prior year. What if, inside CPA firms, we taught more about followership? What if we had well-defined training programs that continued to build on the prior year without forgetting the basics (like followership)? What if all partners demonstrated followership as well as teamwork?

So many articles, programs, conferences, seminars, webinars, and CPE classes are focused on leadership skills for accountants and we still hear, profession-wide, that we don’t have enough future leaders.

Maybe we are going about it all wrong.

  • "The world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker."
  • Helen Keller

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