The Forgotten Part Of Leadership: Followership

Eman Goubran

Why do you think your finance team follows your leadership? Hopefully, it’s not just simply because of your job title. As the pace of change disrupts our business models, our corporate structures, and our styles of management, our definition of leadership is changing, too.

Until fairly recently, followership didn’t get much airtime when leadership was mentioned. But leading is as much about listening and being the person people are motivated to follow, as it is about knowing where your own team is headed. And that means creating a culture and team dynamic that actively encourages people to express themselves and their ideas, doubts, or different points of view.

Toward creative thinking

It’s something I’ve deliberately introduced into my own team. My team members know I don’t override anyone or shoot down new ideas in public. I make a point of making them feel empowered to express themselves, which in turn leads to greater engagement. It makes them more vocal, comfortable enough to make decisions under pressure, and less apt to stay silent if they spot a potential problem or issue. This is incredibly valuable – especially at intense periods, such as quarter-end, when we ask a lot of people in their time, attention to detail, and commitment. It’s also something we’re adopting as a team externally in our customer meetings, and elsewhere internally as we collaborate with other areas of the business.

After all, we as leaders aren’t always right, and the right answer certainly is not the sole domain of the person with the biggest job title in the room. No CFO wants to be surrounded by nodding heads that are full of silent doubts or end up making critical errors because of “group think.” That’s where followership really comes into its own. It stands to reason that if leadership is important to performance, followership must have something to do with it, too.

The value of a fresh perspective

Actively listening and fostering a culture of engagement means great ideas can come from the bottom up, not just the top down. A new perspective, fresh eyes, or just a younger viewpoint can often make the difference between being good and being great.

Of course, teams still need a strong leader to follow, but they must work collaboratively and cooperatively. The concept of followership plays an important part in the success of any group task, yet in my view, it’s an area of leadership that’s still largely overlooked.

With the current shift in the CFO role, where the expectation is to be more customer-facing and act as an active business consultant, followership adoption will give you the needed fresh perspective on various topics.

As management author and speaker Tom Peters once said, “Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” The same could be said for followership.

Learn more about why Everything You Know About Leadership Is Wrong.

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Eman Goubran

About Eman Goubran

Eman Goubran is CFO of SAP MENA (Middle East and North Africa). Eman has been working with SAP since 2011, and has nearly 25 years of business experience predominantly in the software industry. Eman has a special passion for customer-facing activities and how to help SAP customers run better. She is a member of the Member of the Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario, Canada and holds a CPA from the University of Illinois, USA.