Leadership error: Why followers ‘cover their faces’

Over the years, I have come to realize that whatever happens in homes, companies and nations, the primary problem is usually caused by the leaders, not the followers. When a leader fails to truly provide sincere leadership, those following his or leadership will know and their loyalty will begin to nosedive. In this part of the world, leaders are usually seen as those who are infallible, so most times, people do blame the followers, but the truth is, everything rises and falls on leadership. This truth is not open to any debate.

In Nigeria and on this continent as a whole, when leaders fail, we do not hold them accountable, but when followers ‘misbehave’, we blame them, not their leaders. This is one of the reasons we are where we are today in this part of the world. The reality is, each time there is a crisis in an organization, primarily, the followers are not the problem, check the leaders out. As an expert in the field of leadership and human capital development, I do know this like I do know my fingers.

Additionally, behind every follower who ‘covers his or her face’ is a cloaked leadership error. When followers begin to water down the quality of their followership, check their leaders out. It is those who do not understand what leadership is all about—who do ignorantly look at the followers without looking at the leaders, when things go wrong in families, companies and nations. For the umpteenth time, each time a follower begins to move from obedience and loyalty to disguise, hold his or her leader accountable.

Many years ago, I was privileged to pioneer an organisation from the scratch with a leader. Before I did join the organisation in question, I was promised heaven and earth. And as others were joining us, they too were promised the same thing that I was told by my revered leader. About two years into the promising project, the fig leaves began to wither and they began to fall off one by one and the nakedness of the man in front began to show to all of us.

When we first started, our level of commitment was very high and it was touching the ceiling. And our level of hope was very high too. The entire team did run with the organization’s vision as their own, but when the team began to see and notice inconsistencies in what the arrowhead said and did, the team’s loyalty began to wane and one by one, they began to drop as leaves during dry season. For the umpteenth time, when a leader does not do what he or she says he would do, the followers will move from obedience to disguise.

I remember a true life story in the good book that captures the essence of today’s leadership lesson that I am passing on to you. There was a time when a leader told one of his followers what to do and the follower under consideration went as she was instructed to do. The follower kept her own part of the deal, but the leader failed to keep his own part of the deal. As an effect of this leadership error, the follower in question moved from obedience to disguise. Do not blame her, blame her leader!

In the last twenty-one years as a leadership expert in this nation and beyond, I have seen this story play out at government agencies, companies, religious institutions, families, education institutions… I have seen teams running as a lion, hitting their targets, making unusual things happen—delivering wow results, until their leaders began to promise what they would not do. When leaders promise what they would not do, it does affect them negatively. Each time you see followers wear masks of different shapes and colours, check their leaders out. The error is usually and primarily from their leaders.

When a wife moves from being transparent and submissive to wearing a mask—disguising, it is primarily and usually the fault of the husband. When the husband promises what he would not do, it shall push the wife to start pretending to be who she is not. This is what leadership effect is all about.

Before and during the last presidential election, hopes were so high, as an effect of what the All Progressives Congress and President Buhari said he would do for the citizenry. Almost two years after that the administration of PMB began, there is a wide gap between what is happening and what was promised. The number of those who did trust PMB to deliver a new Nigeria is fast reducing daily. This is what happens when a leader promises what he is not capable of doing.

On the condition that you are either a leader or a would-be leader, never to tell those within your circle of influence what you know you would not do. If you do, it shall impact negatively on your leadership and one by one those following you shall desert you. Your leadership becomes very strong when people cannot see any gap between what you say and what you ultimately do.

Lastly, if the administration of PMB is going to deliver a new Nigeria, the first thing the arrowhead would need to do is to restore the lost public trust. How is he going to do this? He should make sure that there is no gap between what he says and what he does. Without this, he is going to end as those who served before him.

See you where great people are found!