Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Should We Be Teaching "Followership" in Addition to Leadership?

Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Should We Be Teaching "Followership" in Addition to Leadership?

Article excerpt

As agriculture teachers/ FFA advisors we stress leadership development with our students. Are we doing our students a disservice by not teaching them also how to be a fol- lower? Sam Rayburn, former Speak- er of the United States House of Rep- resentatives for 17 years, said "You cannot be a leader and ask others to follow you, unless you know how to follow too." The question to ask our- selves is, "Do we need to teach stu- dents how to follow or do they do it naturally?" I am going to argue yes we do need to teach them.

If you take a look around the cur- rent high school classroom you will see a generation that has always had "instant gratification." They have grown up with technology that im- mediately brings them what they want. They don't have to communi- cate with each other in a professional manner. Conflict is dealt with via text message or other electronic means. Our students have also been taught that it is best to be a leader, not a fol- lower. When I tell my class they are going to learn leadership skills, but also "followership skills" I often get blank stares.

Let us not confuse followership with "servant leadership." While they are closely related they are dif- ferent principles. Servant leadership is an excellent leadership model that utilizes a "top down" approach. The leader of the group puts the needs of the group before themselves. They share their power. They, however, are still the leader, not the follower.

When I was growing up in the FFA family, and even through most of college, I found the word follower to be a negative word. It was my job to lead the group, not follow along like everyone else. It wasn't until I be- came involved with some profession- al organizations and earned a place on a national board that I realized I needed to change my approach. I was at the top of the organization with ten other top-notch leaders. It was much like the idiom "Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth." Here we had a group of leaders adding their own ingredients to the mix. Each wanted to leave their specific mark on the soup and did not always look at the whole recipe. This sometimes resulted in an argument that in retro- spect was unnecessary. I realized that I didn't have to lead every activity. I could hone my skills and lead when I needed but I could also support oth- ers initiatives as a follower and that wasn't a bad thing.

As an agriculture teacher/FFA advisor, I follow the role of my of- ficer station, the wise owl, and work to impart what I have learned, often through trial and error, onto my stu- dents. …

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