Lead, follow or get out of the way. Failing to know which to do is probably one of the most annoying and frustrating things I have to deal with on a constant basis. It is usually one person on the project that is suppose to lead, follow or get out of the way that fails to do so and the whole project gets FUBARed. It is mainly due to them not understanding their role or accepting their role on the project.

A while ago I was meeting with Janet, an employee of a client. We were to go over some final details for their website. Janet had been appointed by the owner as my main and only contact. She knew the business inside and out and would be able to get me the information I needed to do my job except for one area. That is where Brad came in. The whole time I had been working with Janet, Brad was there, waiting to push her out of the way. He couldn’t accept that for this project his role was to follow Janet’s lead and give information about his area in the company. At every turn I would get “his version” of information for the website. It was very frustrating to not only me but to Janet too. If she didn’t give him the time of day to say his input he would run to the owner. Wasting everyone’s time.

Brad just couldn’t accept his role, which was to follow. For some people it is very difficult for them to accept their role. A person might fail to lead for many reasons:

  • They don’t know how.
  • They don’t feel like they will do a good job.
  • They don’t want to.

A person might fail to follow because:

  • Their pride might get in the way.
  • They might feel they would do a better job.
  • They might not like who is leading,

Those who can’t get out of the way might have the same reason as people who can’t lead or follow. Either way, when a person doesn’t know their role it can cause major headaches for everyone and totally derail a project. Even I have trouble accepting my role on some things. I’ve learned that instead of not accepting my role, I should use my role to help the other person accept their role. If they are failing to lead and I’m suppose to follow I nudge them into their leader role by forcing them to be the leader. I ask questions and look for direction and guidance. I don’t stop until they accept their role and lead.

It is a similar process when a follower is trying to lead. When conflicting roles start to happen, I bring up the issue to the lead role. It is their job to sort it out and put a stop to conflicting roles. If I’m to lead and a person is failing to follow, instead trying to lead, I communicate with the person that their role on this job is to provide me with certain things or I give them a special role that makes them feel like they are leading that area of the project. Same goes for if the person is trying to get out of the way but is suppose to be following.

The next project you are on recognize whether you are to lead, follow, or get out of the way. Also help other realize their role. I bet you will find the project runs a lot smoother.

I would love to hear about your stories of people who failed at lead, follow or get out of the way and what you did to help them realize their role. Or if you failed to lead, follow or get out of the way and what you did to accept your role. Leave a comment below!