Leaders, followers, even laggards: Good companies need all three to grow

You read this headline correctly; companies need laggards, too, not just leaders and followers. However, don’t confuse the laggards with losers and malcontents whose real inclination is to, “Put it to the man” (i.e., the company).

Every organization with more than three people requires leaders and followers to do the actual heavy lifting. But why laggards?

If managed and motivated, today’s laggard will become tomorrow’s solid worker who translates leadership’s directives into successfully executed strategies that meet and beat expectations. Sequentially, in most companies, the best followers morph into the next generation of leaders, and the truly effective ones remember where they came from, too.

If a company has only leaders, most likely not much work would get done, and the environment would be chaotic, frustrating and eventually intolerable.

Few if any leaders are born. Instead, they are nurtured and groomed as they mature through experience and evolve with tutelage into executives who can keep the company afloat and take it to new heights.

Layering personnel in a company’s queue takes knowledge, experience, and even a bit of luck. The real trick is to identify those who aren’t quite yet hitting the mark but are exhibiting characteristics and an attitude that can elevate them with a little nudging to the next productive category. It also requires an investment in time and money to provide a path with appropriate checkpoints and tools to move a lightweight C minus player to the next level. The amount of time expended must be weighed, too, in this progression because a guiding manager must put this worker on a shorter string and invest added effort into their growth, as success is far from guaranteed. For employees who fall into this category, full disclosure is also vital. All involved, the boss and the one who needs to be nurtured, are aware of the next steps and expectations, and what constitutes reaching them.

The advantage to the organization is that as a slow starter begins to gain momentum, acquire experience and earn self-confidence, productivity increases. Equally important, the employee’s gratification feeds on itself and provides further self-motivation when things start to click.

From my experience, positive momentum breeds further acceleration and frequently can result in a breakthrough when the laggard becomes the next motivator and takes on the role of a mentor to those who have experienced a similarly sluggish start out of the gate. This also results in added loyalty to the organization because of the commitment that was made to them.

Running a business is much like filling a pipeline with a steady flow from the entrance to the exit. When done correctly, this ensures multi-levels of talent ready to assume new responsibilities as opportunities arise. The best leaders are also great talent scouts, always on the watch for those who show future potential.

As for the losers and malcontents, good companies “put it to them” before they “put it to the man” by fostering an environment that grooms the most promising employees. It’s a delicate balancing act, recognizing that the best aren’t born; they’re bred.

Visit Michael Feuer’s website www.TipsFromTheTop.info to learn more about his columns,watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”