EM Forum Presentation — October 11, 2012


Garry L. Briese
Principal, Briese and Associates

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/Leadership/Followership.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm121011.wmv
An audio podcast is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm121011.mp3

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your host and Moderator. We are very glad you could join us.

Our topic today is "Followership." We have devoted some previous programs to leadership, which you can find in our archives, but this is the flip side. Followers are obviously critical to the success of good leaders.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my privilege to welcome back Garry Briese, Principal with Briese and Associates and serving currently as the Local Program Integrator for the Wide Area Recovery and Resiliency Program (WARRP) for the Denver UASI.

In 2008, he was appointed to be the Regional Administrator for FEMA Region VIII and previously he served as Vice President, Emergency Management & Homeland Security for ICF International.

Please see today’s Background Page for further biographical details and related links. This is Garry’s second time in the Forum, and he is always thought-provoking.

Welcome Garry, and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us again today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Garry Briese: Amy, thank you. For those who were planning to join yesterday and I managed to cancel, it was for a good reason. Our granddaughter was born more than a week early so that throws schedules into disarray—but again, for a good reason. Thank you for coming back today.

In front of you I’m showing a slide of that famous town in Japan. If you go back to the tsunami you recall the black water from the ocean coming over the sea wall. This shows the top—the radio antenna—and the top of the roof ladder for the emergency operation centers—a three story building that was fully staffed in response to the earthquake.

[Slide 2]

I start a presentation on followership with this kind of slide to remind us why we are doing this. This is the where the water is receding. Thirty people in the EOC went to the roof. After the water receded ten people survived.

[Slide 3]

This is the final slide of the EOC. As you can see it and much of the rest of the town was destroyed. Interestingly enough one of the structures that survived intact was the sea wall that was overtopped. Reflect on that as we go into this presentation of followership.

[Slide 4]

Let me begin with a personal story. It involves the number of firefighter fatalities that were going on in the United States about seven or eight years ago, in particular, the number of firefighters that were dying in recruit training which is absolutely the most controllable environment that any organization has—the training environment.

I listened and I watched and I realized something needed to be said. I wrote an article that called for the criminal investigations of every firefighter fatality in the United States in recruit training or in actual operations.

The idea was to start at the highest level of investigation, gather all the possible material that could be gathered and then make a judgment whether this was in fact some type of action that was a criminal action or work its way down to a complete accident without any negligence.

I wrote the article and submitted it to our editor for publication. She read it, knocked on my door and came into my office and said, "I don’t think you should write this article because it is going to upset a lot of people." I said, "No, this is a very serious situation and I want to write the article.

She went away. In a couple of days she came back, knocked on my door again and said, "I’ve read the article again. We have now set the article in place on the newsletter. I think you need to reconsider."

I again said, "No, I want to go ahead and push it forward because it needs to be done." Several days later she came back and said, "Listen, we are at the printer. I have another article I could substitute for the one you’ve written. Take some time to think about the article and we can put it in the next issue."

I said, "No, I want to go ahead and print it." The reality was the article caused a huge stir in the fire service such that people were asking the Board of Directors of the International Association of Fire Chiefs to terminate me. I survived and the article was written and caused a lot of discussion.

I’m not sure, quite frankly, if it moved the agenda forward down the field for firefighter safety or not. But what I am sure about is that the editor was demonstrating absolutely the best of what we can call courageous followership. She was willing to challenge the CEO of the organization three times and ask whether this was an appropriate action to take.

That is what we want from followers. The more I reflect on my own experiences, this one and other ones I’ve had throughout my career, the more I recognize the absolute importance of the skill of followership. Because in fact no matter who you are or what position you hold you are a follower more frequently than you are a leader.

[Slide 5]

Everybody works for somebody else. We are all followers. As you reflect on your own position in your own organization, the opportunities for true leadership where one person makes one decision that fundamentally changes an organization, structure, vision or direction are far between and few in occurrence.

Most of the time what we’re doing, at least in an organization that practices both good leadership and good followership, is seeking the opinions of people that work with us so we make better, more informed decisions. More eyes on an issue will always generate a better solution.

This candle reflects vision—a leader—leadership provides vision—lights a candle. Followership reflects that vision. If there are no followers, there is no reflection. Without a reflection does it really make a lot of difference whether the candle has been lit or not?

[Slide 6]

We know this. Leadership is influencing others. Followership is seeking or accepting influence—subtle but very significant difference. As Amy said at the beginning we talk an awful lot in all our organizations about the skills of leadership. In fact we emphasize leadership to the exclusion of followership.

You can’t have one without the other. A leader without followers is just one person in a wilderness. Good leadership makes it easy for followers to follow. Good followership makes it easy for leaders to lead. Since we concentrate so much on the skills of leadership we have forgotten one small detail.

[Slide 7]

That detail is this point on this slide. Success in an organization is the result of good followership rather than just great leadership. The characteristics of followership are many. Many of them are nuance—how to ask the right questions at the right time, what words do I use to ask the question so the leader can accept the question without getting upset, especially if it is a direct challenge.

[Slide 8]

I have selected five of these. Just like with leadership there is a host of skills. I have selected five to talk about. As we proceed we normally concentrate on the red and green boxes—the "important people" in the organization. We usually have a top down view of what the organization looks like.

We are going to concentrate today on the gray boxes and talk about how as a follower and a leader we can enhance the environment to make our organizations stronger.

[Slide 9]

Most of what happens is when we sit around in groups like this—I’m not talking about emergency operations, although I am talking about emergency operations—I’ll come back to that in a minute—most of the time we are sitting around groups like this, we are having questions, we are trying to decide directions and we are addressing problems.

The dialogue between leaders and followers as you listen to these kinds of discussions you will know in minutes the quality of the leadership in the organizations and probably the quality of the decisions that the organization is going to make.

You say, "I run an emergency organization. We can’t have situations where we have leaders giving orders that are questioned by followers." My response is that no, that is not correct. There are so few situations where a leader would give an order that should not be open to questions. Even in a safety situation. More eyes on the situation may bring a different perspective.

Someone may say, "We have this developing situation. We need to evacuate everybody out of this are in a hurry." There is absolutely nothing wrong with a follower saying, "Excuse me, if we do that, have we thought about the next action and the action after that?" That pause—that thirty or ninety second discussion about what the ramifications of the decision are—that is the quality linkage between an order by a leader and a decision by an organization.

[Slide 10]

People don’t like to describe themselves as a follower. No one has said to me ever in my career, "I want to be the best follower possible. I want to have ‘follower’ on my business card." Nobody has ever said that.

When I ask people who they see as a good follower in their organization they are usually able to tell me who a good follower is. They can also give the characteristics of that person yet by our evaluation systems and discussions we show minimal value to those skills. If you are a student of leadership then you must be a student of followership.

[Slide 11]

Here’s an example everyone can relate too—Spock and Kirk. The yin and yang of these two people—one highly logical and one highly intuitive is what drove much of the script for this television series. Each of these people clearly understood their role. There was not a question that Kirk was the captain and Spock was first officer.

They understood their roles. They pushed each other and they balanced the other one’s weaknesses with positive aspects of the other one’s strengths. Most importantly they had absolute trust with each other. It did not make any difference if one of these people made decisions with or without the presence of the other one. The trust was there knowing that it was made for the right reasons with the best information at the time.

[Slide 12]

Followership is very much like the foundation of a building. We dig it out and construct it and put the building on top of it. Once we start constructing the building the foundation becomes nearly invisible to the structure yet this is the essence of a strong organization—its strong followers.

[Slide 13]

Where do we learn this stuff? First we have to respect and support the value of good followership. As a leader you cannot make anyone do anything. You can position power them or order someone to do something but all of us know that orders have been given and orders have been ignored or we have passive compliance where we do it because we have to do it.

That is not what we want from our organization. We want people to do things because they want to do things. We want people to seek the leadership of the leader. Good leadership in fact is defined by the follower. Each of us can give the characteristics we want from a leader. Leaders should be able to give similar characteristics that they want from a follower.

[Slide 14]

First, respecting and supporting the value of good followership—where do we go to learn this stuff? If we were in a live audience I would ask each of you where you have studied followership of where you can go to take a course in followership. As we look around the only institutions I have been able to find on a pretty consistent basis that have something in their curriculum or courses dealing with followership is the military.

[Slide 15]

I have done a pretty good search around the country in many universities looking for followership courses. The only one I could find that actually had a class in followership was the U.S. Air Force Academy.

[Slide 16]

The universities had portions of courses that were on followership but none of them have followership as a core course required for the completion of a Master’s or Bachelor’s Degree in management, leadership, entrepreneurship—nothing I could find. If you have something please send it to me.

[Slide 17]

Since we can’t go learn it someplace, not easily at least, we tend to look for role models or people who have influenced us. We say, "I’d really like to be like that person. I like who they are."

One of my favorite role models is Admiral Jim Loy, Commandant of the Coast Guard. When you went to him and talked with him he had the skill of making you feel like you were the only person in the world, much less in the room at the time he was talking to you. Any of us could meet Jim Loy and talk with him for five minutes and say to ourselves, "If I worked for this person I would do anything this person asked," because that is the kind of skillset he brings as a leader.

When I ask live audiences who has influenced them, people talk about their father, minister, rabbi, good friend, teacher or one of the leaders they came across in the military. Most of us have never taken the time to sit down and say, "I like that person and I’m going to try to quantify and write down what I really like about them, whether they are a leader or a follower".

To take the time to write five characteristics about that person and say, "I want to learn those characteristics". If we don’t have a contemporary, and many of us do, but if we don’t have good contemporaries for followership we go to people who influence us, and then we go to history and then we go to contemporary (by contemporary meaning current model).

[Slide 18]

If we look here—this is way back in history. This is a person on the right side of the screen. It is a picture of Sam Elliot who is portraying the character on the left side of the screen, Brigadier General John Buford from Gettysburg. The Cavalry Officer leading the Union Army into Gettysburg and made first contact with the Confederates—if you have seen the movie he says something like, "We have to hold them here because we need to hold the high ground."

He dismounted his cavalry and they took positions and held the Confederates from moving any further into Gettysburg actually setting the Union victory up because they held the high ground from that point forward. While he was a ranking officer he was certainly not the ranking officer in the Union Army.

He took initiative because he saw something that was critical and needed to be done and knew that if he did that he would have the support of his commanding general.

[Slide 19]

Another one—in fact this one is more recent, just a couple of years ago. This is Sergeant Dakota Meyer. As you can see he was presented the Medal of Honor by President Obama. He received the Medal of Honor for actually disobeying orders. Three times he asked permission to move forward because his unit was under really serious attacked and he was three times denied that permission.

He and a driver (a soldier) defied orders and drove four times forward into the kill zone rescuing Afghan soldiers as well as U.S. military soldiers. In fact he is credited with saving 36 lives by defying orders and saying, "I’m taking my own initiative". You say that those are good characteristics of a leader.

If he would have failed he could have very well received a court martial for doing exactly the same thing—a courageous follower recognizing the situation and taking action to correct it.

[Slide 20]

Most of us will not recognize this fellow. His name is Greg Smith. He resigned from Goldman Sachs about a year of ago. He resigned by sending an email to his—he was in London at the Goldman Sachs office—he resigned about 6:10 in the morning London time which was about 2:10 in the morning New York time.

About fifteen minutes after he resigned, an op-ed piece written by him appeared in the Wall Street Journal. He said in short, "I’m resigning because the culture in Goldman Sachs has become toxic and does not represent the values I want in an organization." He had worked for them for almost twelve years.

Friends of his said that his resigning so publicly and he was so loyal to Goldman Sachs up until the end, that it was the ultimate act of loyalty for him to resign—very public resignation. In fact so public that on the next trading day the value of Goldman Sachs stock dropped 2.1 billion dollars. I think he made his point.

Goldman Sachs continues to have difficulty today and he found a job within about three or four months. People value that kind of loyalty. He resigned from Goldman Sachs very publicly, op-ed appeared in the New York Times (I said the Wall Street Journal but it was the New York Times) and the value of this follower resigning was set at about 2.1 million dollars when Goldman Sachs stock dropped the next day.

He talked about the toxic leadership in the organization and the failure of the leaders to listen to the followers.

[Slide 21]

This is a picture of a Lehman Brothers office on the day these employees were finding out that 26,000 of their colleagues lost their jobs in a 600 billion dollar bankruptcy—the largest bankruptcy in the history of the United States. In review of the bankruptcy they pointed out again the leadership culture in Lehman Brothers was toxic.

Not only did they not listen to people who challenged decisions they responded in an aggressive manner against those people. They also failed to respond to those challenges. Two different organizations where followers are saying, "I have a problem with what is going on here" and they are either not being listened to or they are actually being disciplined for expressing that opinion.

That is a very, very dangerous situation and for these 26,000 people in particular, a very costly situation.

[Slide 22]

I am going to talk about five characteristics of followership. The first one is actually the hardest one and that is to tell the truth. Our first action very frequently when we are asked a question abut something, no matter what position we are in, is to try to minimize or cover up something that is a mistake or error.

"Did you send that email?"

"Yeah, I did. I sent that email."

"Did you make the phone call and talk to this person?"

"Yeah, but I haven’t been able to get a hold of them yet."

"Did you finish that project?"

"Sure, it is done."

When in fact maybe I haven’t sent the email, made the phone call or completed the project—we have that desire to minimize or cover up mistakes because we have been punished in the past for telling the truth. What an interesting way to teach our people what we value!

I can tell you the longer I do this the more comfortable I am just telling somebody, "No, I haven’t sent the email. Thanks for reminding me. No, I haven’t made the telephone call. I’ve got other priorities. I’ll make it this afternoon. And no, I haven’t completed the project but this is when I can get it completed."

It is a liberating feeling to be able to do that especially in an organization that goes, "That’s okay, we understand. It’s a priority. You had other priorities. I trust your judgment that you did the right thing." There’s a parenthesis behind it—(even though you didn’t necessarily do the right thing).

If we want people to tell the truth we have to be able to not hurt them when they tell us the truth in a manner that they become hesitant to do it in the future. I’ve learned that when a colleague of mine comes to me and uses a term similar to "We need to talk", they are probably trying to say, "We need to talk about something that you’ve done that has either upset me or other people and you need to know about it."

I am sort of like, "Okay. What have I done?" They will usually smile and go, "Let me tell you what happened." Then they’ll tell me a story. It gives me the opportunity to reinforce that skill of followership and more importantly it gives me the opportunity to correct the mistake that they are telling me. Telling the truth is the foundation of everything that we do.

[Slide 23]

The second one is support, don’t blame. What does that mean? That means that when a decision comes down or is made, whether you are a follower or a leader we have the obligation to support the decision. Too often we seek popularity by criticizing others, especially those of us in mid-management or any position in an organization.

Mid-managers are especially susceptible to this because they are getting it from both sides—from upper management and from colleagues that work with them in their particular area. They’ll say things like, "I don’t know why that decision was made. It was made by somebody else." Those kinds of statements simply reinforce a toxic environment.

Instead of saying, "I don’t know why that decision was made. Perhaps I wasn’t involved in that decision but I know the decision was made for the right reasons with the best information they had at the time. I’m sure once we find out what it was we’ll find out why they made that decision."

We don’t want somebody saying, "Do this because of something else." For instance, somebody says, "We need to clean up the office because such-and-such is coming. We need to change the way we are doing things because something else is happening." We don’t need to do it because of something—we need to do it because the office is messy. It requires a clean-up.

The Board of Directors is coming in so we need to clean up the office. We blame it by saying words like that—we blame the other people and they don’t know they’ve been blamed. People begin resenting the fact that such-and-such is coming because every time he or she comes we have to do all this other stuff. They don’t even know it is being done.

Then we have related to this something called the "absent person’s model of trust". What that is when somebody is not in the room talking about them in terms that we would not talk about them if they were in the room. We all love doing it whether we do it over the coffee table in the kitchen in the office or whether we do it over drinks after work. We talk about people all the time.

We actually enjoy doing that but that is in fact part of this number two supporting and not blaming. When you participate in discussions about somebody else and they are not there and things are being said that would not be said if they were there, what you are saying to everybody in the room is, "You can talk about me in the same manner when I’m not here."

None of us like that. What a leadership/followership moment is when somebody is sitting around in a group of people and they get to talking about somebody individually and have somebody go, "Excuse me, would we be talking about such-and-such in these same terms if they were sitting here in the room?"

Everybody would go, "No, I wouldn’t do that."

"Then don’t do it here. If you won’t tell him/her to his face this same stuff, I don’t want to hear it here either."

What a terribly risky situation to put yourself in! But it draws very clear lines about trust, truth and blame and they are all interrelated.

[Slide 24]

Here is "coach by asking questions". The nuance is how you ask the questions to expand the discussion and not stop it. I’ll give you an example. I’m in a meeting with a whole group of people. I happen to be the CEO in this situation. Talk is going on and one of my colleagues asks a question to the group and I answered it.

We moved on to the next thing. After the meeting, knock knock on the door. Somebody says, "I need to talk with you," and they used that great term, "We need to talk."

"Come on in. What do we need to talk about?"

"When you answered that question, you yelled at that person."

I said, "Excuse me?"

"You yelled at them."

I said, "What are you talking about? I don’t yell at people. Yelling is when you raise your voice."

Unbeknownst to me the definition of yelling had changed and yelling now includes embarrassing someone. The person who was bringing this to me could have very easily said, "When you answered the question you embarrassed them." When I thought about it I went back and realized that my answer to their questions actually did make them look like they didn’t know what they were talking about.

That is not my role in that situation as a leader. My role as a leader and follower is to learn how to teach and coach by asking questions. The majority of the time the leader doesn’t need to speak in meetings. They just need to watch the flow of discussion and ask the right questions to keep the flow going.

If it’s urgent obviously we have a time frame on this and we have to make a decision by such-and-such, but everybody knows that. You don’t have to drive that home like a stake in the heart of a vampire or something like that. People won’t accept things we do that way. When we cut off discussions by answering questions when they don’t need to be answered we shoot the messenger and embarrass the person and they aren’t going to do it more in the future.

[Slide 25]

Number four is "giving the benefit of the doubt". We touched on this. Respect and leadership cannot be bought with disloyalty—by blaming somebody else. I don’t know why this was done but I know once we find out it was done for the right reasons. That is number four.

[Slide 26]

Number five is to "keep the information flowing". As a leader don’t shoot the messenger. Don’t embarrass people publicly. Ask questions that allow people to express themselves and explain themselves as to why they are asking that question. You only have two or three times in front of a group to shoot anybody and the information will stop flowing.

From the follower’s perspective you have to know how to ask the question. Is the person you are questioning somebody who has given the signal already they don’t mind being challenged in public or would they rather be challenged in private. Very few decisions are in fact final decisions. They are almost always up for reconsideration.

It is hard to speak the hard. It is hard to speak the truth. It is hard to hear the truth but for leaders and followers these five characteristics—tell the truth, support don’t blame other people, coach by asking questions, give the benefit of the doubt, and keeping the information flowing—will result in an organization that respects its leadership and its followership and will be, in fact, a very dynamic organization.

[Slide 27]

This quote sums it up: "If you believe that a lack of position or authority prevents you from leading effectively, it is time to rethink your understanding of leadership." We have talked about followership today and followership is in fact a mirror image of leadership. It is practiced by everyone. Everyone is a follower.

[Slide 28]

By being a good leader you are a good follower and by being a good follower you become a good leader. The light of leadership and vision of leadership is reflected. That is the most exciting thing—to watch an organization that has this kind of culture that respects leaders and followers co-equally and watch them make phenomenal decisions, have open and frank discussions and everybody goes away feeling really really good about themselves. That is what it is all about.

[Slide 29]

Here is an opportunity to learn more—the Followership Learning Community out of the University of Maryland. As Amy said the slides will be available shortly. I urge you if you are interested in followership go onto this. There are great resources there.

[Slide 30]

Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Gary. There is a lot to think about. We will now proceed to questions and comments. We would be interested in hearing of any experiences or challenges you have had with this.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring: You emphasized the importance of trust between leaders and followers or members of a team. It seems your five recommendations go to building trust. Is building trust a part of the process?

Garry Briese: Building trust IS the process. There is nothing more important than having a culture of trust in an organization. We have all worked in organizations where that didn’t exist and they are terrible places to work. Everyone is CYA all the time. Everyone is looking over their shoulder to see who is going to get screwed next.

You don’t even want to go to work in places like that. I want to go to work in a place where I am enthusiastic about going to work most days. At the same time this is what is exciting about it. When you see this operate and you have that culture and people trust each other it is tremendous.

Donovan Puffer: If it doesn't already exist in an organization, a culture of followership has to be grown. What is the first seed of followership, and who plants it?

Garry Briese: One is followership is done by modeling. It is understanding that ideally the leadership team plants it. In the absence of that the only thing you can do is understand what the principles are and follow those principles. At one point in time, hopefully (and this is a really tough thing to say) you get enough people who believe the right thing is being done and will begin following it.

Realistically it is probably not true because organizations take tremendous energy to change and organizations that have a culture where followership is not valued (and there are lots of them) will take literally years to change that relationship. It can be done. If you are not the leader it is a much harder slog to do.

If you know what your values are and you know what needs to be done you keep modeling those time and again and of course every so often you run into the situation where it is not going to change. You have two decisions. Bunker in and wait it out, or probably leave. I’m talking about leave either mentally or physically. There are situations where you have to wait it out and see what happens and hopefully the leadership will change. That is a terrible answer, I know.

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Gary. This hit me as being applicable to all of society's institutions including all of us in the emergency management field. Is there any institution or discipline where followership is not pertinent?

Garry Briese: Let’s take it back to a real basic one—the family or the group of people you live with, however you define it. When my wife and I do not have open communications and trust and all the other things we talked about we get into those situations where we are having a bad day in the Briese household.

Then we pause and recognize what is going on. There are reasons for bad stuff to happen and miscommunications to happen. We pause and go back and say, "This isn’t what we want. We have got to start talking more to each other or lay out expectations better."

We’ve been married a long time and we still have these discussions. That unit between my wife and I is fully reflected across every other organizations. Organizations go through cycles just like relationships go through cycles. There is no applicable institution where it is not pertinent.

It is pertinent in every relationship because what we’re talking about is not institutions or organizations but interpersonal relationships.

Amy Sebring: With respect to emergency management, this goal of trust should be part of preparedness. You don’t want to wait until the disaster hits to find out you have some holes in the team, right?

Garry Briese: Let me give you an analogy. If our organizations—and I recognize the scope of emergency management organizations is not very large except for FEMA (even the state organizations aren’t very large)—if those organizations spent an equal amount of time developing the skills of leadership and followership as much as we do checking the boxes for plans, procedures and policies and all the outside demands for our performance, if we put an equal amount of time on the human aspect of what we do and how we work with each other, that is a force multiplier.

Our organizations would be much better. Work would get done quicker. People will be happier. It doesn’t matter if it is emergency management or not. It doesn’t matter if it is a large or small organization.

Steve Lieberman: Nice presentation Garry. So other than the military, how do we train our people without appearing condescending? I'm thinking honesty, encouraging constructive dissent, but requiring acceptance and support of the leadership decision. What am I missing?

Garry Briese: We have to recognize that most organizations need help with both leadership and followership and that comes from an open and honest assessment. Is this the organization we want? It this how we want to work? How can we work better? Let the group tell us what they want.

If you are in a toxic organization that may or may not be possible because people already know that the messengers have been shot. People have been disciplined, maybe people have been fired, terminated, transferred—all sorts of retaliations for telling the truth. That is the worst situation possible.

In an organization that is not at that level it is sitting down and asking people what they want from the leadership team and asking the same people as members of the team what they want from a follower. What skills do we want to exhibit to each other? What are our values in this organization? How do we put those values—take them from the wall and put them into practice?

I have gone so far in other organizations as to sign leadership agreements that say how we are going to treat each other. One of those leadership tenets is actually to give the benefit of the doubt because that is how critical it is. In that organization we had ten or twelve leadership tenets.

The entire leadership team signed that and it was distributed to the entire organization. Everyone knew how the leadership team was going to treat each other. In this organization it was a career staff and a volunteer board of directors. When you have that kind of difference between career and volunteer—when you have that kind of difference between career and volunteer, meaning that you have paid staff and people who volunteer their time to the organization it becomes even more complicated.

It is reducing these things to writing and saying that these are the values we are going to have. We are always going to tell the truth—well, most of the time. We are going to give each other the benefit of the doubt—those five tenets and there are lots more. That is the way you begin articulating.

Daniel Hahn: Isn't the process of followership actually the process of leader development?

Garry Briese: It is, except we don’t talk about followership in any leadership development courses. I have never been in a class where someone gets up and says, "We are here to talk about leadership but we’re really going to talk about followership because that is what is most important." Leaders follow more than they lead. They lead only because the followers let them lead.

We all know people who have been in leadership positions who everybody went, "We are going to give them rope to hang themselves. Eventually they are going to get themselves into more trouble and they will be gone and we will be able to get on with our lives." That is the real conundrum, because in leadership classes we do not talk about followership. It is not valued.

Avagene Moore: Is the followership principle instilled currently in EM instruction (EMI for example) particularly when leadership is being stressed?

Garry Briese: To the best of my knowledge I have not found it. If somebody has it, please send it to me. This is an entire skill set that we, by our actions, have placed no value on. It is what makes organizations function.

Amy Sebring: From my own experience I get conflicted most as a follower when I feel like my loyalty is to the mission of the organization first and foremost and when that conflicts with what the leadership is telling me. I guess a couple of those principles would kick in—give them the benefit of the doubt and so forth?

Garry Briese: When people say they are loyal to the mission of the organization—everybody says that—the reality is you are loyal to the person you next work for, right above you. While we have missions with phenomenal purposes—it is like when we are in a fight, in the traditional view of combat, those people aren’t fighting for the nation or the freedom—they are fighting for the person in the foxhole next to them.

Too frequently it comes down to that. We are in this situation where we are fighting with our closest teams and that is what functions the best. Once you get above that the broader things of mission and those things are lost because the leadership culture doesn’t value that. It is about coaching up and listening down. It is about recognizing that every single person in an organization has equal value to everybody else.

It is when we think that we know more, that we are more important than or less important than anybody else because we are just this—when organizations are exhibiting those kinds of descriptions of themselves, those are organizations that I would consider in trouble.


Amy Sebring: On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our participants today, thank you very much Garry for being with us today, and as usual, giving us something to think about.

Gary Briese: You are very welcome.

Amy Sebring: Folks, if you have not already completed our user survey, we encourage you to participate. You could win an iPad for you or your designated organization if you complete it by October 15.

Our next program is scheduled for October 24th and we will have August Vernon back with us by popular demand to expand on an earlier program about Mass Shooting incidents. Please make plans to join us.

Until then, have a great afternoon everyone. We are adjourned.