Are you a leader and giver or a follower and taker?


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Like many people who may read this, I am a great believer in face to face networking, by which I mean actually getting out to meet people. I run a business breakfast group, and I have been involved in running other groups too. It is great fun to be involved in organizing events, and in working with other people to do this. I have found that I learn a great deal about them, and no doubt they learn a lot about me. That is partly how to build trust in a network; by shouldering some of the responsibility for actually running it.

Not everybody is like that. There are people who turn up to the meetings but they don’t take an active role. They are followers. They do not volunteer for office. They do not speak up in discussions. We don’t know what they think. They don’t encourage others to come. We don’t get support from them and that makes it harder to give to them, because we don’t know what they want.

Many organizations run by members do at times have difficult choices to make, and sometimes that choice is whether or not there is still a need to exist. Without enthusiastic members with vision, many groups can wither and die. I have seen it with local business groups and even those related to old-established international ones who do charitable work. Without strong and vibrant support from a small number of people in running things, even very worthy associations will disappear as passive members take what there is, but don’t participate.

Recently I have witnessed someone perceiving a problem and seizing the initiative in just such a situation. Because he has stepped forward, others have taken up the cause and are putting forward not only their support, but their constructive ideas. The passive will remain passive and still take, but there should still be something they can take from.

Leadership is about doing and about encouraging (not telling) others to do. Giving time and knowledge is often more valuable than money, and most of us have some time to volunteer. It is about taking control of our own lives. I guess that is what David Cameron is talking about with his Big Society, derided by the passive moaners, of course. It is certainly true that the best gifts are of our time, because that is how we can most help others. That involves leading by example.

What do you think?

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2 Responses to Are you a leader and giver or a follower and taker?

  1. Tom Chapman says:

    I think that’s an interesting point, although I have experienced situations which weren’t quite as black and white – I have seen followers that give. A former colleague of mine was most definitely in the “follower” camp – she never spoke at meetings and unless we had a one to one, it was hard to figure out where she stood on various issues. Yet she was a passionate worker who gave 200%, and outside of the “meeting” arena she was most certainly a giver, taking on what she listened to and going out and giving.

    You sum up good leadership perfectly in your last paragraph – it is truly inspiring to work under and with good leadership

  2. Jon Stow says:

    Tom, your former colleague sounds like a good person. Of course there are many who contribute in their quiet way. The frustration is with those who have so much to give but don’t give. If they understood the need to give and the satisfaction in giving, they would receive benefit too, perhaps even material benefit from their friends and colleagues.

    Your quiet friend will have been appreciated in her giving as you appreciate it.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

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