New Leadership, Part 7: Leading and Following

My last article argued that we need to follow before we can lead, to listen before we can expect to be listened to. So, what does that look like in practice? What behaviors can we practice to become better followers, better listeners, and ultimately – better leaders?

Following vs Leading

In a nutshell, when we are Following, we:

  • Ask questions;
  • Listen actively;
  • Summarize;
  • Show understanding;
  • Agree where possible; and
  • Appear vulnerable.

In contrast, when we are Leading, we:

  • Present facts;
  • Express vision;
  • Argue;
  • Structure;
  • Formulate proposals;
  • Lay down expectations;
  • Evaluate; and
  • Give feedback on behavior and aspects of the relationship.


Knowing when to Lead and when to Follow is important. By using the right balance between Leading and Following a leader you can build the right amount of pressure to stimulate the right drive amongst co-workers. Too much leading and demanding will build too much pressure and can lead to anxiety. Too little Leading and only Following without no challenge can mean a lack of pressure and therefore co-workers getting bored.

Drive: Between Boredom and Anxiety

In his book Flow, originally titled Beyond Boredom & Anxiety, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes how people are often in a state of boredom or a state of anxiety. Boredom arises when you are required to perform easy tasks, like a slave and without any influence. On the other hand, anxiety originates when your skills are too limited for the task you are assigned.

Boredom requires further challenge and independence, while anxiety requires increased knowledge and skills development. The actual drive originates in between boredom and anxiety.

Development of competence levels and commitment is the foundation for building lasting success. Development is of strategic importance for both the organization and the well-being of men. Development can be implemented based on the four aspects we saw earlier:

  • Lack of awareness calls for facts, figures, and examples.
  • Lack of willingness calls for identifying and removing barriers.
  • Lack of ability calls for skills development and enhancement of knowledge.
  • Lack of courage calls for security and safety nets.

In my next and final article on New Leadership, I will reflect on the role of communication in New Leadership—in particular, its role in motivating people for happier, healthier organizations.