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February 25, 2011 / HandsOnCorps

Taking a Step Back to Follow

Ever run into a situation when you have too many leaders and not enough followers? I know I have. Being part of almost too many team building workshops and retreats, I realize that if everyone tries to step up at the same time and hears only their own voice, very rarely does anyone get anything accomplished. Most often, resulting in everyone leaving with a bad taste in their mouths, sprinkled in with some cursing under breathes. A lack of clear direction can make any service project hard to complete. Sometimes, the best way to be a leader is to take a step back and simply follow.

When you’re able to follow, you learn a lot from observing the action and directions of others. You see what works and what didn’t and in turn, you also learn what leadership style synchs best with you. As part of the Get HandsOn Challenge team, we wanted to take what worked in the past for HandsOn Network and bring that to our online members, so that they could develop their leadership qualities in community service.

For the second stage of the Get HandsOn Challenge, we launched Follow the Leader the day after MLK Jr. Day. We want the initiative to encourage service leaders to extend their dedication to service on one day to a commitment that will extend through our lifetime, as Dr. King Jr. would have envisioned. With the first leg of the campaign, we wanted leaders to Tag their friends and family into joining service commitments and passions that interested them. A lot of these commitments were great and could lead to promising community change, but there was not a starting guide from which people could refer to. Passion with no direction can be often troubling, and even disheartening. Now with this second leg, we compiled 10 successful community projects in easy-to-follow Project Playbooks that will help Service Leaders carry out their commitments. The guides give instructions from the planning/ brainstorming of the project to your final evaluation/ wrap up. All easy to organize and most importantly- easy to follow!

Another cool feature the Get HandsOn website has now is a Playbook Forum, where members can post about their projects – what worked, what didn’t, how it went, etc. The forum gives another opportunity to follow what others have done and take bits and pieces that can be added to our own community leadership repertoire. All of this helps us when it‘s time to lead our own project and carrying them out successfully.

So are the most successful leaders the best followers? I would say so. They learn to listen to those working for them, take charge when things need to be done, but also know when to take a step back when others want to lead. Following doesn’t have to be a passive action – actually I say far from it! By actively following the leader, you are learning skills and values that will only help you when its your time to shine.

Ken serves as an AmeriCorps National Direct member through the HandsOn Network with Points of Light Institute. He is based out of Atlanta, working with two other Americorps National Direct members on the Get HandsOn Challenge, a national campaign to help execute two million real-world value-directed projects by inspiring, equipping and connecting people to making positive change in their communities.


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