Creating Space for Followers

Ron Macklin & Michelle Mosolgo

Creating Space for Followers

Episode 6: Creating Space for Followers

Michelle asks Ron: How are leaders able to create a space for followers to join them?

Ron says to imagine a crowded room: A leader makes a safe space for someone to step in and feel like they belong there.

Ron shares a story about a hiring freeze in one of his previous positions. As a leader, he went out and talked to some of the stressed-out technicians on the job site. He took a stand to be a leader for his team. He decided to create space to take care of his people and turn down certain jobs if they didn’t have enough workers. While management wasn’t happy about it at first, their company’s quality and safety went up as a result.

Ron never thought his managers would follow, but they created space to give everyone who wants it the opportunity to follow.

Michelle clarifies: Space isn’t physical, it’s a narrative created in language. Ron says, in some ways, space is nothing.

Ron and Michelle discuss how creating space for followers is a part of Ron’s stand. He wants to create space for people to produce a good life for themselves and for others. It’s a story they create in language by speaking it out loud.

Michelle asks Ron about his story again, how management and industry leaders started following him. Was that his expectation?

Ron says it was a surprise. It wasn’t his intent, because their stand was only to create space for people to follow if they wanted, but he wasn’t sure if their ego would let them. Now, the company’s stand is they won’t send people out to a jobsite if they don’t have enough resources.

Michelle says when she thinks of followers, she thinks of employees. But she says her definition was too narrow -- followers can be managers or an industry. She starts wondering if there are times she follows her employees as a manager, and realizes there certainly are.

Ron brings up the 5th Industrial Revolution and says that everyone is looking for a team and for someone to follow. In self-led teams, whoever is the leader is the one who has the gift that can lead; in any moment, it can be any person on that team.

Michelle shares a story about coming in from corporate to watch the process that was working on an assembly line. She was thankful that the front-line employees took the time to help and teach her about assembly lines.

If she could go back to two weeks before that event, she would have talked to the employees on the assembly line to learn more about the process and what needed to be done. And even before that, it would have been best to tell the employees that their input was valued, giving them the space to become leaders.

Closing space would have been coming in as corporate and saying “we’re going to fix it and leave,” creating space was creating a stand for everyone to live a good life and keep their jobs.

Michelle’s next question for Ron is about how some people may never think they can be a leader, or for managers to think they can never be a follower. What is the main characteristic a person needs to hold in order to flow back and forth seamlessly?

Ron says you need to be vulnerable and courageous. Teams improve when everyone is open to bring their gifts, and everyone is open to accepting others’ gifts.

Ron says that dignity also often shows up, when people are in a world where they feel empowered to speak up and offer their leadership, and it’s accepted. People go home and feel rewarded.

Join us to hear how understanding the idea of “self talk” — and what you can do about it — could change your relationships and life for the better.


Episode Summary

Creating Space for Followers

How does a good leader create space for followers to join them? And what does someone need in order to flow seamlessly between the roles of leader and follower? Ron and Michelle discuss Followership in this episode of “The Story in Your Head.”