Leaders vs. Followers

A leader leads.

A follower follows.

The difference between a leader and a follower is the willingness to be wrong.

When you’re a follower, you ask the leader what to do.

When you do this, you will never be “wrong.”

If the leader’s decision turns out to be wrong, your hands are washed of any responsibility.

It was the leader’s decision.

You’re magically absolved from taking any responsibility for making an incorrect decision.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize the leader’s decision.

"Oh, he was wrong. It was so obvious that was a bad choice."

"She made the wrong decision. I would have made a different choice entirely."

This is easy for someone to say after the fact when they remained silent before the fact.

You may not have the authority to make big decisions without someone else’s approval.

However, you can do the work necessary to make well thought out recommendations and advocate for them strongly.

This is the big difference between McKinsey, Bain, and BCG vs. firms in industry.

At MBB, we debate and challenge each other’s ideas passionately and with much data and logic.

I routinely debated key recommendations with my managers, partners, and directors.

In industry, the most common behavior is to defer... to defer to the person in charge.

This is safe... and career limiting.

It’s far riskier to advocate for a position before a decision is made.

It’s far riskier to take a stand, especially if it involves disagreeing with your boss and your boss’s boss.

It’s far riskier to stake your reputation on a particular course of action.

But, this is what leaders do.

They demonstrate they are willing to take the risk of being wrong.

And the good leaders do their homework so they are usually right.

This is what leaders do.

They lead... even before they are formally recognized as leaders.

Followers follow.

By the way, there’s a significant difference between leading and controlling.

You lead by advocating.

You control by demanding.

I’m advocating that no matter your role, you should lead more by advocating.

However, you should not control more by demanding others (especially your boss) do what you think.

The former is a good way to grow your career.

The latter is a good way to get fired.

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