The Failure of Followership

Posted by Bruce Peters

followers2.jpegBeing a good leader comes with the responsibility of being a good follower. And that duty falls on us all. But what happens when there is a collective failure of that responsibility?

We are all living in that failure of followership, right now, in this very moment. It’s called the 2016 presidential race.

2016 Presidential Race2016_election.jpeg

Nowhere is the responsibility of followership more acutely felt than this year’s presidential campaigns. Let’s be clear. When it comes to organizations, few rival the size and scope of the United States of America. If you live in the U.S., like it or not, you’re a player in this game.

It’s a healthy exercise to assess our nation’s health as we would any organization. Let’s get started!

Regardless of your political affiliation there is a singular truth; our society has a bad habit of placing blame on a leader. Remember Derek Sivers and the Dancing Guy? Leadership is over-glorified.

2016_parties.jpegHere’s the dirty secret that no one wants to admit – we have all colluded in the results we have in our country. We are failing as followers to demand excellence from those who serve. Instead of demanding excellence, we respond to entertainment. Although many are appalled and aghast at the current reality show of political theater we continue to be entertained and support the group’s momentum. So if you’re feeling as if the current political structure has stabbed you in the back … your fingerprints are on the knife.

Now, it is absolutely not fair to jump into a current situation, point fingers and say “guilty!” We are talking about a collective set of choices made over time. But those are choices made by individuals (U.S. citizens) who may or may not have considered their sense of purpose along the way. And along the way there have been many signs indicating the failure of citizen followers.

Here are the big ones: 

  1. Worshipping independence at the sake of interdependence.
  2. Apathy about anything that does not impact you directly.
  3. Abdicating responsibility to leaders who cast themselves in the messiah role and its corollary: tearing them down when they don’t succeed or making it impossible for them to achieve anything.
  4. Lack of common ground and core beliefs about what we value as a community.
  5. Allowing us to believe and be identified as if humanity is a zero-sum economic game.
Make no mistake; you are part of a team sport that demands interdependence and a shared common ground.

Many great business leaders get all of this in the context of their businesses. They attract great followers who demand the best of each other and their ostensible leader. How do great leaders and followers put teeth behind their demands? Transparency. Core values. Respect. Functionality that is true to its purpose.

This is the path of Teal organizations.

A Teal-Colored Solution

If the 2016 U.S. presidential race is a synonym for failure of followership, then a Teal organization is its antonym. Why is that? The very nature of a Teal organization self-corrects the failure of followership from its inception. Here’s how:

  1. Operating with a sense of wholeness encourages independent work with sensitivity to the collective, interdependent effort.
  2. Your commitments and actions, or lack of, are transparent to anyone and everyone in a Teal organization. If you choose apathy, you will be held accountable for it.
  3. With self-led management everyone is in the role of leader and follower.
  4. A shared sense of purpose is one of the core defining characteristics in a Teal organization.
  5. The idea of “winners” and “losers” simply does not exist. The organization serves the betterment of people within the context of its purpose.

Now it’s time for your question. As someone who holds a leadership position … what efforts and principles will you follow? What is the difference you want to make?

Learn More About Beyond Teal

Bruce Peters has spent the last 15 years living his own “Third Act.” Based on his personal experience and in working as a guide for hundreds of leaders, he has designed a unique process for getting beyond where you are and into the creation of your own Third Act for you or your organization. It starts with the question of what is the difference you want to make? Learn more at

Topics: Followership

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