“Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
These wise words, once spoken by George S. Patton, a former executive of Chrysler, raise an interesting question for today’s fast-paced business world. Really it’s not even just the business world moving at what seems to be the speed of light, it’s the world in its entirety.
There are leaders, and there are followers. But who are those that we cannot peg as either a leader or a follower? Those are the people slowing things down for the rest of us.
You may think that anyone who isn’t leading would be slowing things down, but as the Flood Marketing team thought on this topic, we realized that just isn’t the case. Think for a moment about any major interstate in the U.S. There are the people setting the flow of traffic (the leaders in this case), the drivers who proceed just cautiously enough and help keep up the smooth flow (the followers), and then there are those drivers who go 30 mph over or under the speed limit paying no attention to the other cars around them… where do they fit in? Plain and simple, they don’t. They are in the way and causing headache for everyone else on the road.
If you are not comfortable being in the front, leading the way for others, or being in the back and following in the footsteps of those ahead of you, you are probably in the way of someone else.
Our Lead Graphic Designer, Kristen Masters, compares the “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” philosophy to her creative role, and both of the roles she plays outside the office on the ranch and the volleyball court.
“Depending on the situation and the individual or audience involved in leading, following, or being in the way, I try to understand where I should situate myself in a given setting. For example, if we’re running a drill during volleyball, I ask for volunteers who I know can demonstrate something properly, and ask those who are unsure or inexperienced to follow suit once they’ve seen what needs to happen. It irks me when players let arrogance or laziness get the best of them, and they end up literally getting in the way of something because they can’t admit that they don’t understand a concept. Similarly, if, as a coach, I’m learning how to run a new drill, I normally wait to see how things are supposed to be done, and then take a turn running it myself so I can lead it the next time around. I’m comfortable admitting when I don’t understand something, and I’d rather “follow” for a moment than be in the way of someone who understands before me.”
When beginning a new job or taking on a new role, there’s only one option until we’ve mastered our craft – to follow. Training, on-the-job experience, and a few mistakes made along the way are all part of the process to gain the ability to lead someone else at that task.
As a graphic designer, Kristen states, “I don’t like feeling as though I’m standing in the middle of something being unhelpful or unproductive. I “follow”, to understand what needs to be done and how to do it, and then “lead” the next discussion or action once I understand the goal or desired outcome. Understanding the situation for me, even if it takes a little longer to be comfortable with leading, is far more valuable than pretending like you know what you’re doing when in all reality you’re working backward and causing more harm than good. I don’t do well with the “fake it ’til you make it” mantra.”
One place that the “fake it ‘til you make it” mantra certainly doesn’t work is on the ranch. Kristen has often heard Patton’s “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” phrase while working with the cows she helps raise, perhaps with a bit more colorful language thrown in. Kristen says, “Not admitting you don’t understand something before you volunteer to be in the path of a pile of cows as they’re coming toward you at a good speed is also not a good time to be in the way.”
Rather than let a herd of cattle run you down, (for most we are speaking figuratively here), acknowledge when you aren’t yet comfortable with a task. Follow the lead of someone who is comfortable for a while first. It can be hard to admit that we need a little more practice, time, or instruction, but if we have the fire burning within us to lead, this is the first and arguably the most important step.
Follow those that lead or lead those that follow, but never fall between. Choose one or get out of the way for business to take its course.