One of the things I appreciated most about this book is the emphasis on the relational realities of the followership-leader dynamic. The author does a great job keeping the importance of the "people" at the forefront of the book. (How we are wired, what we need for health and well-being, how to interact with other, etc.) In the end, whether we are leaders or followers (or more likely, as he points out, a mixture of the two), we are human beings! The author deals with issues of honor, courage, submission, communication, forgiveness and trust--- all deeply essential to healthy, basic human interactions; and, clearly important for the follower to embrace! He also does a great job encouraging and empowering followers to thrive...and offers great ideas showing what this might mean or look like.
Hamlin Jr. has written a great book! Well-organized in 6 parts, Embracing Followership is a strong encouragement to followers to aim for excellence.
It is worth purchasing Hamlin’s book for Part 1 “Misconceptions and Realities of Followership” alone. Here Hamlin effectively deconstructs the faulty assumption that followers are necessarily lacking in character and skills as compared to leaders, and he mercifully brings leaders down from their pedestals. Hamlin persuasively remind us that followers are valuable, noble, worthy of respect, courageous, and that they have plenty of opportunity to exert influence. Hamlin helps us see that followers can be far more motivated by the the common cause of a group/organization than the thought of one day becoming leaders themselves. Rather than focusing on unhelpful us/them distinctions between leaders and followers, Hamlin highlights that leaders and followers simply perform different roles in the effort to achieve a common task; “At its heart, the leadership/followership dynamic is about division of labor”.
Part 1 finishes with an excellent summarizing chart, which captures a range of faulty assumptions about leaders and followers, complete with corrective statements for each assumption.
Part 2 “Can and Should: The Opportunities of Excellent Followership” builds nicely on the theme of Part 1. Hamlin strongly encourages followers to “Participate! Contribute something!”, so that the group has the best possible chances to achieve its objectives. Not contributing is effectively robbing the group of your gifts and talents. Hamlin specifically encourage followers to communicate, honor their leaders, and submit to their leaders – recognizing that followers have really valuable input to give in the planning stage of any endeavor, whilst maintaining a responsibility to implement even unpopular decisions.
In Part 3 “Obstacles and How to Overcome Them”, Hamlin helpfully and very realistically outlines some of the things that may make it hard for us to follow well. This part includes good chapters on cultural differences and an honest assessment of our own internal struggles as followers (many of which relate to the faulty assumptions about leadership and followership discussed in Part 1). Hamlin also includes a full chapter on helpful resources and personal development tools that may help us overcome challenges to good followership. It is clear that Hamlin has significant personal experience utilizing all different tools, which allows him to recommend specific tools for different challenges.
In Part 4 “Followership in Relationship with Leaders” Hamlin expands further on a key theme of his book: the common humanity of leaders and followers. Hamlin encourages followers to take proactive steps to improve relationships with leaders, not to gain personal favours, but rather as a way to support leaders better and make leaders more open to receive the wisdom and support followers have to give. I also appreciate Hamlin’s chapter on the thorny issue of “Following ‘Poor’ Leaders”, where he clearly suggests that the weaknesses of a leader is not an excuse for followers to withhold support and effort;
“The reality is that all leaders are poor leaders. While some may use the adjectives “bad” or “incompetent”, I prefer to that every leader is a “poor” leader – impoverished in some way, lacking some ability, skill, knowledge, or characteristic that would enable him or her to lead with greater excellence. After all – I’ll say it again – leaders are human too: they inherently lack self-sufficiency, fall a few items short of the complete package, and thus depend – like all of us – on others to come alongside and fill in the missing pieces”.
In Part 5 “Followership in Relationship with Other Followers”, Hamlin reminds us that our effort and support should not only be directed toward our leaders, but should also be aimed at blessing our peers. Only focusing our attention on leaders, could well lead our peers to believe that we are only interested in gaining personal favours for ourselves.
Part 6 “Followership in Relationship as a Leader” completes the book. Here Hamlin provides different excellent suggestions for leaders on how to foster great followerships, and I really appreciate Hamlin’s encouragement for leaders to display dependence and to ‘invite in’ followers, i.e. to trust followers with enough information that followers are truly enabled to provide leaders with the maximum support.
This is an excellent book and I highly recommend it to anyone wishing to grow in their followership.