It Takes Two To Tango: Effective Leadership

If given a choice, most people would prefer to be a “leader” than a “follower”. The term “follower” has often been saddled with negative connotations; images of sheep, “yes people,” or mindless subservience habitually come to mind. But this is a traditional and narrow-minded view of followers. The reality is that organizations can’t have true leaders without followers.

The expression “it takes two to tango” is an apt description of leadership. Some managers may consider themselves leaders, but if they lack staff who truly want to follow them, they probably aren’t worthy of the term.

Tango is a close, improvisational dance that requires excellence in both the leader and follower role. The concept of followership is often ignored in leadership materials. The ways in which followers support leaders and interact with each other are useful for many of the best leaders who are working with teams.

What distinguishes an effective follower from an ineffective one is intelligent, responsible and enthusiastic participation in the pursuit of an organizational goal. Responsible followers can help leaders stay on track and manage their decision-making processes in the right direction. But that takes a little courage to stand up and speak up at the right moment.

People display followership when they express, through their words or actions, respect and support for a person they view as their leader, and openness to be influenced by him or her in that capacity. This implies that followership involves at least some degree of deference to the leader, although the degree of deference shown can vary. By providing followership, employees elevate their manager to the status of leader, who then has the latitude and confidence to lead them.

Summing-up: As the saying goes “it takes two to tango” – even in achieving effective leadership!

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