Together We Stand (and yell)
For my regular readers, you know I am interested in and sometimes write about human motivation as it relates to leadership. An understanding of what motivates us and why we choose to lead (and conduct many other activities and behaviors) can assist us in developing and improving.
Underneath that interest in motives is simply a hopeless dreamer wanting the world to be a better place, and I cannot help but believe the most influential, ripe, and best possible place to do that is with leadership. The influence that leaders have makes this so.
But leadership is only half the equation.
What about followership? What motivates people to follow? And can that possibly be as productive, as powerful, as leading?
I had a unique opportunity to attend my first college football game recently. I have to go on record despite the potential loss of popularity here: I do not follow nor do I really know much about football. I went to the game at the invitation of my wife. I not only wanted to be with my family, but I also wanted to experience something new. Mostly, I wanted to experience the place where my wife played D1 volleyball, the University of Georgia.
Going to a football game in the South, I am told, is a special and unique opportunity. Some people have told me it’s “real football” and that it’s a cherished part of the culture. Others have referred to it as a “religion,” while still others have said there is simply nothing else like it in the world. I went to the game wanting to understand the loyal and fierce devotion to this sport – and it’s not even just the game! The tailgating beforehand, the partying afterward … there’s a lot happening! After one game, I can see what they mean. (And the game I attended turned out to be a pivotal game for the Bulldogs, re-establishing their #1 ranking over Tennessee).
Our nephew Chase is a current senior at UGA and like my wife, he bleeds red not from biology but rather their loyalty to UGA. While tailgating, I asked him why there is such a following. After some contemplation, a few extra chicken wings and slurp or two of sweet tea, he said, “You know, Uncle Bill, I think it’s community … it’s belonging to a community.”
That seemed too obvious, so I asked the same question of a few folks in line for the porta-potty. Turns out some folks really want to be surveyed in a porta-potty line, but Southern hospitality came through. I received answers much like Chase shared … belonging, community, loyalty, and friendship. Unfortunately, it turned out I was in a private line and redirected to the public units, which dampened the communal spirit somewhat.
During the game, I could not stop processing about 90,000+ people chanting in unison. At times they were cheering and yelling and singing and swaying, and occasionally talking trash about the visiting team. Ultimately the collective goal of reaching a record decibel level was impressive … more impressive than the game, even. The goal was to reach 125 decibels as recorded by the onsite decibel meter. The number was displayed in real-time on the giant digital screen, which gave real-time feedback to anyone paying attention … and EVERYONE was paying attention. The crowd achieved 131 decibels several times and I was thankful that I brought earplugs!
Throughout and because of this experience, I realized that followers can in fact be leaders, and leaders – well, leaders need to learn to follow a little. There’s a symbiotic relationship, a polarity or creative tension that lives in the space between leader and follower that deserves much more exploration!
If you’d like to explore more about leadership development for yourself, your teams or your organization, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.