Is your organisation a Leader-Follower or a Leader-Leader culture?

People who are treated like followers have the expectations of followers and act like followers.

The US navy have a really interesting definition of Leadership in their handbook:

“Leadership is the art, science, or gift by which a person is enabled and privileged to direct the thoughts, plans, and actions of others in such a manner as to obtain and command their obedience, their confidence, their respect, and their loyal cooperation.”

Leadership in the US Navy, and in fact in many organisations is about controlling people. It divides the world into two distinct groups of people; leaders and followers. Most of what we study, learn and practice in terms of leadership today still follows this leader-follower structure.

People can accomplish a tremendous amount through the leader-follower model. The wide-spread development of farming, the pyramids in Egypt and the factories of the Industrial Revolution were all built using this structure. It generated phenomenal wealth and prosperity.

It is exactly because the leader-follower way of doing business has been so successful that it is both appealing and so hard to give up. But this model developed during a period when mankind’s primary work was physical. Consequently is it optimised for extracting physical work from humans.

The challenge of Leader-Follower

In our modern world, the most important work we do is cognitive; so, it’s not surprising that a structure developed for physical work isn’t optimal for intellectual work. Differing motivations, aspirations – particularly amongst generations Y and Z, only exasperate the problem and means there needs to be another way.

People who are treated like followers have the expectations of followers and act like followers.

As followers, they have limited decision-making authority and little incentive to give the utmost of their intellect, energy and passion. Those who take orders usually run at half speed, under utilising their imagination and initiative.

Additionally, in a leader-follower structure, the performance of the organisation is closely linked to the ability of the Leader. As a result, there is a natural tendency to develop personality driven leadership. An approach which might deliver short term results – however, will never allow you to build a high performing, sustainable, legacy organisation.

The Solution: Leader-Leader

The Leader-Leader structure is fundamentally different from the leader-follower model. At its core is the belief that we can all be leaders, and in fact, it’s best when we are all leaders.

Leadership is not some mystical quality that some possess and others do not. As humans, we all have what it takes, and we all need to use our leadership abilities in every aspect of our work life.

The leader-leader model not only achieves great improvements in effectiveness and morale but also makes the organisation stronger. Most critically, these improvements are enduring, decoupled from the leaders personality and presence.

Leader-leader structures are significantly more resilient, and they do not rely on the designated leader always being right. Further, leader-leader structures spawn additional leaders throughout the organisation naturally. It can’t be stopped.

Are you part of a Leader-follower or Leader-Leader organisation and culture?

What are you building in your organisation – a Leader-follower structure based on short term results or a Leader-leader culture for a high performing, sustainable, legacy organisation?

Click here for more information on our Inspirational Leader programme.


  • * Required field

  • YES, please sign me up to receive value adding email marketing communications focused on growing businesses and unlocking people potential which includes; highlights from your weekly blog, invites to webinars and events, offers and free resources

    You may withdraw this consent at any time by emailing us or updating your preferences.We will process your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.