In past posts on this blog, I have spoken about the concept of “followership“. The general drift of that message was that there was good and bad “followership” and that good leaders in general were equally adept at being led. There are some rules to being led, and being the best you can be at it. The effects of a good leader on a committed and devoted group of followers are the sorts of things that make success out of longshots and gambles.
Today’s headlines speak to a different, but from my perspective, more visceral bond than any relationship between the boss and the troops. The relationship I refer to is between the troops themselves. Perhaps you are one of them. If you aren’t, understanding the power of shared camaraderie is essential to understanding how teams work, and why they succeed or fail.
For those that have worn the uniform of their country, there is a common bond or pact between those that have served. It runs even deeper when it has been worn under trying circumstances and far from our shores when those who also wore it were the only source of support or trust in an alien and hostile land. The men and women of a platoon, or a division, or a squad may often suffer each other in better times but once the game is on, for better or worse, your shipmates and teammates are united with you in a common goal of survival and mission accomplishment. This relationship runs so deep for people who have risked their mortal coil far from their loved ones that to break this code is considered the most foul and low of acts.
Closer to home, the office is often filled with petty grievances, annoyances, or simply clashes of ego, temperament, or opinion. It is entirely possible that you are not fond of the person who inhabits the office closest to you and that it is unlikely you would ever go camping or even to dinner with that person. A military unit is very similar, perhaps eerily so, even when one considers the average age is probably well below your office median. Given the choice, there are probably any number of people in a given platoon or division who would not willingly engage in a friendly BBQ party with some of their fellow unit members. It is amazing how, once that unit is deployed far away from the friendly shores, those differences become pretty small and trivial under the circumstances. That is because no matter how much you dislike the person next to you, the code requires you to willingly put your life on the line for them.
In the office, whether as leaders or followers, we often have our differences. However, the mission, the goal, and the team come before any difference. Sacrificing the possibility of success for personal issues is not the mark of the leader. Leaders know how to come together and work with any and everyone, and build high functioning teams out of the diversity of opinion and ability that marks the modern workplace.
As a child, I was the oldest of two brothers. It was not uncommon for the two of us to disagree, to the point of the usual sorts of juvenile violence. Being the older, I generally came out on top. Mother kept the peace with a shared understanding that serious injuries inflicted would have consequences. However, Mother’s line that was not to be crossed, started when the two of us went outside to play with others. While Mother may have had a more tolerant attitude to a dispute within the borders of the home, she had a zero-tolerance approach to the slightest degree of fraction when in public. In short, taking another’s side against my brother in public was a heinous and unpardonable sin, and I could expect to feel the full wrath of the Mother Judicial System. I learned to appreciate who my brothers were at any early age, which extended into youth sports, the military, and my profession of choice for the past twenty-nine years. In your team, know your brothers, focus on your missions, and be true to the bond.
“For he that sheds his blood with me, Shall be my brother.”