Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

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RichJ
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Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by RichJ » Wed Jan 30, 2019 6:28 pm

The essential skill of 'Followership'...

I hope this is not seen as too controversial but a good topic for debate?

https://seakayakingwales.com/2019/01/29 ... Ic68vdAAJE

Rich

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Chris Bolton » Wed Jan 30, 2019 9:18 pm

An interesting and useful discussion, thanks Rich. I agree with the importance of Followership, but my immediate reaction was to the tagline - I question whether a 4* leader should necessarily be a 5* follower. I'll just throw my thoughts in as a contribution, not to claim that I'm right or anyone else is wrong.

Why should a paddler's competence level at Following necessarily exceed their competence at Leading? It's often assumed to be the case, but is it a good thing? In a military situation, or (say) among the crew of a racing yacht, the Followers have their own specialist skills which are just a vital to the success of the team as the Leader is. When I paddled the Grand Canyon, the five qualified guides drew lots to see who would be Leader for the trip, and the rest settled happily into Follower roles. When I climbed rocks, I typically climbed with somebody of equivalent skill, and we alternated between Lead and Second [Follower] - nearly all the hardest climbs I did were as Leader. I also knew climbers who would tend to Lead whenever possible and other who would prefer to Follow.

It may also be the case that a paddler who enjoys Moderate Water (to use the new name for 4*) may be happy at that and have no ambition to paddle on Advanced (5*) water, so may wish to both Lead and Follow in the Moderate environment.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by RichJ » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:10 pm

Hi Chris, I agree my title is rather tongue in cheek and therefore misleading. I purposely didn't use current BC titles. Drawing on the research and practice from other arenas, I am suggesting that engaged Followership skills are not only important to the outcome of the adventure but an essential apprenticeship for a leader. I totally agree with your point about the racing yacht, and Grand Canyon trip. Indeed, leading on from the notion and significance of Followership is the recent ideas of shared and changing leadership, using best skills of a group. In our environment this might be for example;'Chris, you're good in surf!' ....And Chris lands the group
I put the article together firstly because I think it's interesting to draw analogies from other arenas. Secondly, to highlight the importance of engaged Followership and also to highlight individual efforts within a group.
Interesting stuff!

Rich

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by pathbrae » Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:09 pm

I think we might be in danger of overthinking this....
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Jim » Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:22 pm

I think inherent in the proposition, is a concept that leadership is harder than followership, therefore you need to be able to follow in more difficult conditions than you can lead in. I disagree with this notion, especially in paddling where leadership and followership roles are complex and intertwined and (as you have have noted in your full text) may change throughout a trip.
It is interesting that Chris mentioned climbing, I used to climb a bit, the hardest I ever lead was HS, the hardest I ever seconded was HS - I don't think it is that unusual amongst crag climbers to lead and follow at the same grade, although some indoor and sport climbers climb technically very high grades on top-rope but don't lead at all.

To be honest, I have never looked at what 4 or 5* sea ever involved. If we were discussing river running and the grade people should be leading or following on, I would claim that on grade 5 no-one should need to follow, everyone should be capable of making their own decisions and rotating into the leader role as and when required. To be honest, at sea in heavy weather (which I assume is what 5* is for?) I would expect every member of a group should be able to take over the lead in case the group split, or the nominal leader ends up needing a rescue of something.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by RichJ » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:08 am

Hi Jim, And interesting comments! The purpose of the article was to apply similar thoughts to followership in paddle sport as are currently being considered in other arenas, where Leadership and Followership are seen as different but interdependent entities. My (personal) emphasis was to try and highlight the importance of role in Followership, important from the novice to the most skilled.

Am I 'overthinking this'? ... Was raised. Actually, I think not. Personally, I like to see big emphasis on role and team playing in groups. People are so varied in needs and wants...it ain't the military. I have used referenced examples from other arenas to support my point and significance of Followership. We meet many types of people with different needs and wants. Experience operating with different folk is I believe, highly valuable to any leader. Hence the tongue in cheek title.

I note the analogies to climbing. One type of leadership but also dependent on Followership skills. Indeed, should a good lead climber be good at seconding? I would say so. Especially if you don't value the odd runner on a long traverse! A skilled climbing wall climber transferring to traditional style routes would gain a lot from Followership skills.

All interesting stuff!

Rich

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by gethroberts » Thu Jan 31, 2019 4:43 pm

I have a question and some opinions...

How do you "effectively follow"?

1) Shared knowledge/communication - knowledge of what's going on in the enterprise is very important and enfranchises the team... Without this perhaps, at best, "sheep" and "yes people" followership emerges. Knowledge can be shared during planning and ongoing during the endeavour. A "follower" may or may not be able to ask the right questions to find out "what's going on". Regardless of the follower's research capability, it is the leaders responsibility to share knowledge and communicate "what's going on".

2) Sharing of decision making opportunities - I think this is really important and helps avoid alienating followers. It is really irritating when any leader overly indulges in decision making without consulting their team.

So "should a 4* leader be a 5* follower"? I think not - it is difficult to be an effective follower of a poor leader, regardless of the sea state... Or conversely, a good leader can foster great followership, even in challenging seas (Shackleton did a pretty good job!).

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Chris Bolton » Thu Jan 31, 2019 6:32 pm

How do you "effectively follow"?
I'd suggest that examples of "effective following" would be:
  • telling the leader if the plan (or evolving plan) is going out of your comfort zone
  • asking questions if unsure
  • paying attention to the leader (and so remaining with earshot)
  • watching the group to see if anyone needs 'company'
  • knowing where the group is, where you're going and what the weather and tide are doing
  • giving feedback to the leader (but not to the point of being a nuisance!)
while ineffective following could include (as well as the opposites of the effective examples):
  • not keeping together in the group (ie, paddling ahead or off to the side)
  • general lack of situational awareness
  • failing to say if cold, tired, hungry, struggling with conditions, etc
A lot of these are things the leader does, which is why I'm not convinced that following at 5* when you can lead at 4* should be normal practice.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by RichJ » Fri Feb 01, 2019 6:15 am

Hi Chris,

I'm really enjoying the debate!
First off, to anyone reading this please, please refer to the article first and not just to the comments made.
Chris, I note your examples of good followership. Actually, not very far from the key points made by Kelley (1988) in the article. And as noted; 'In many respects, being a good follower follows the same characteristics as being a good leader with many of the skills and attributes required of an effective follower also seen in an effective leader'

Chris, again please don't read too much into the title! In my final paragraph I questioned; 'On the basis of the arguments above the role and skills of followership should carry a similar level of debate to leadership, both essential skills for a safe, happy day on the sea and  apprenticeship for aspirant leaders. Thus, my somewhat banal point; 'should 4* Leaders be 5* Followers'.  I could equally have said; 'should leaders be very good followers?' I included the star terms following on from the implications in the preceding sections.

The purpose of the article was to highlight the importance of followership as a separate but co-related skill to leadership. To do so I used and referenced the significant findings from other arenas.

Rich

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Jim » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:33 am

pathbrae wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:09 pm
I think we might be in danger of overthinking this....
If you are an experienced paddler already comfortable with the way your peer group operates, then there is really no need to be thinking about any of this at all - you almost certainly are doing it all well and instinctively.

If you are involved in paddler education and sometimes come accross people who don't find this kind of thing intuitive and need to be educated in how to be an effective member of a paddling group, then it is important to fully understand the realtionships between leading and following with particular reference to the paddling environment which as most of has have already decided is more complex than some environments (perhaps office work?).

So whether 'we' are over thinking this, is going to depend on our own roles, needs and interests.

For me it is purely interest, I am not involved in paddler education so I am probably guilty as charged of over thinking it!

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Franky » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:57 am

It seems to me that when you assume the role of leader, you are assuming responsibility. That's the essence of leadership. It applies whether you are a good leader or a bad one.

No one in a group has the responsibility to be a "good follower". In general, a good leader makes good followers.

If a "follower" is not co-operative or lacks the skill to participate, the responsibility still lies with the leader to address the problem, if necessary by refusing to let the person paddle.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:06 am

Rich, I think our viewpoints are very close - I completely agree that good followership is as important as good leadership and deserves an equal amount of discussion (which it probably doesn't get).

To me, 'Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?' is a different question to 'should leaders be very good followers?' I'm probably overthinking the language, but the first suggests that a leader should be able to follow in more demanding conditions, which I don't think is necessarily true. That's partly because of what I understand by 4* and 5* - 5* doesn't necessarily imply a higher standard of leadership, just the ability to apply leadership skills in more difficult environment. The second wording suggests that to be a good leader, you need to thoroughly understand following - and I agree with that.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Robert Craig » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:12 am

Franky wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:57 am
... No one in a group has the responsibility to be a "good follower". ....
Franky
While I agree with most of what you say, I do think that everyone in a group has the responsibility to at least try to be a good follower.

To my mind a good follower works out what the plan is and facilitates what the leader is doing to achieve this. Difference between leader and follower is that it's the leader's plan.

I have to say that in my personal sea paddling group we tend to have benign anarchy, either taking decisions by consent or just doing out own thing.

Rivers are different.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:13 am

No one in a group has the responsibility to be a "good follower".
I'd say the opposite - everyone in a group has the responsibility to be a "good follower".
If a "follower" is not co-operative or lacks the skill to participate, the responsibility still lies with the leader to address the problem, if necessary by refusing to let the person paddle.
That may be the case where the leader is employed commercially and the follower is a client. If I'm leading a group of friends, we're all responsible for each other - as leader, I'm responsible for taking decisions on behalf of the group (and have that role by agreement of the group), but that's as far as it goes.

But I think that's a different debate to the one Rich has started.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Jim » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:42 pm

Franky wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:57 am
If a "follower" is not co-operative or lacks the skill to participate, the responsibility still lies with the leader to address the problem, if necessary by refusing to let the person paddle.
Taking this to it's conclusion, a bad follower should be excluded from a group?

Is this not a round about way of saying it is important for paddlers to be good followers if they want to paddle in a group?

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:23 pm

a bad follower should be excluded from a group?
I've heard a leader say "I don't want him paddling with us" - not because of dislike (no problem chatting in the pub) but because he's a bad follower. But there's a difference between not including somebody in a group in the first place and dropping them once they're in.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by twopigs » Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:05 pm

Jim wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:42 pm
Franky wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:57 am
If a "follower" is not co-operative or lacks the skill to participate, the responsibility still lies with the leader to address the problem, if necessary by refusing to let the person paddle.
Taking this to it's conclusion, a bad follower should be excluded from a group?

Is this not a round about way of saying it is important for paddlers to be good followers if they want to paddle in a group?
Or at least they should be prepared to learn to be good followers!
Canoeing - bigger boat, broken paddle, more skill!

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by gethroberts » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:58 pm

"Effective leader" and "effective follower" are just two sides of the same coin.

An effective leader is one that develops their followers to be capable leaders themselves. So if the "effective leader" gets hit by a bus, it's no big deal and a replacement steps up - an "effective follower". How's this done? - encourage others to lead whilst you settle into the background for a bit...

The "effective leader" role can therefore switch with "effective follower" role - two sides of the same coin?

I guess this doesn't work for every follower but it's worth trying as some will thrive...

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Aled » Sat Feb 02, 2019 12:16 am

For me Effective Leadership = Safe Leadership. Safe Leadership requires a Reserve. Reserve = skills & strength, knowledge, clarity of thought.
When a situation puts a Leader close to the limit of their Reserve, then Effectiveness reduces.
When a situation overwhelms a Leader, they become Ineffective (unsafe). Obviously!
An Effective Leader will know their own limits of Reserve and will maintain a working 'safety margin' at all times.
The GREATNESS of an Effective Leader is proportional to the depths of their Reserve relative to the challenge undertaken.

I've been using this as a personal 'leadership gauge' over they years:

1. I'm comfortable with the conditions and happy to lead - all eventualities have been foreseen and accounted for.
2. I've accounted for the conditions and am prepared to lead - some eventualities must be avoided to prevent escalation into 'loss of control'
3. I've accounted for the conditions and am only happy to lead providing I have a team of 'known capability' and I can depend on a peer paddler for leadership support
4. The conditions are such that I do not wish to assume overall responsibility but am happy to be the second leader
5. The conditions are such that I can assist if an emergency arises
6. The conditions are such that I'm only comfortable as a group member and cannot take responsibility
7. The conditions are such that I need supervision but I'm still aware/capable of my group role
8. The conditions are such that at times I become occasionally unaware of what the group is doing as I'm mostly focused on my own paddling performance
9. The conditions are such that I'm unaware of what the group is doing - I'm solely focused on my personal performance
10. The conditions are such that I cannot predict my performance outcomes - I'm in survival/reaction mode

Effective Leadership can prevail in scenario 1, 2 and 3 - but Reserve diminishes

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by RichJ » Sat Feb 02, 2019 10:13 am

What a succinct and most excellent post. Thank you, Aled!

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by pathbrae » Sat Feb 02, 2019 11:32 am

An interesting debate indeed, raising several points.

My only hope is that we don't all get so bogged down in concerns about our own (or our groups) "followership" skills that we forget to enjoy ourselves.

A lot of the points made about the original article seem to be based on the premise that the participants are working towards the top of their own comfort zone / are being coached / are on an extended trip or are navigating hazardous waters, which I don't think was the OPs perspective or intent - I think it was more a look at group dynamics on a "normal" club trip or peer paddle where the "leader" cap is worn by a member of the group with similar skills to a lot of the other paddlers.
We've all been on trips where someone has shot off ahead, gone their own way round a reef, gone to play in an overfall which the group are trying to avoid.... (I suspect we've all been guilty of doing something similar ourselves at some point.) all of which can be stressful to varying degrees on the group leader and on the other members of the group, so perhaps it's no bad thing to be reminded from time to time about the responsibilities to the group leader which we all have.

My concern about all of this is that it is heading down the path of "qualified engagement" where trips will only be open to paddlers of a proven standard (of "followership" awards?) at which point I think we should all consider exactly why we go kayaking in the first place. It was this sort of intellectual debate around the old SCA touring committee and it's activities which caused it to split from the organisation and which gave birth to the excellent SSKEG group.

I met a gentleman once who was riding a very expensive mountain bike, we rode along together for a bit and had a bit of a chat and he explained at length how he used his cycling as excellent cross training for his skiing, why he had chosen that particular bike, how he measured his performance on it.. and on and on and on.... until he eventual asked "what about you, why are you out on your bike today?" My reply was simple - "I'm just out playing" His look of complete perplexed bafflement and his lack of comprehension of how a grown man could be " just out playing" was highly amusing to behold.

I'm not denying that there can be occasions when a "leader" needs to choose his group very carefully, know their capabilities and, possibly more importantly, their weaknesses so that they can be supported or situations avoided as appropriate. But for most of the paddles which we go out on, whether as "leader" or as part of a peer group, we are not going to be getting so close to the edge of anyone's comfort / performance envelope that a consideration of anyone's "followership" skills should be necessary. Which is not to say that conditions and situations can change and that is where a good leader will be dipping into their own personal reserves and experience - having already worked out which of the group will be useful in a supporting roll and who might be needing that support.

At the end of the day - I'd hate to loose the ability just to go out and play with my pals
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So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by on the rocks » Sat Feb 02, 2019 1:48 pm

Aled, a very useful scale. Particularly in a peer paddling group where the group's decision making process can be "unstructured". In a couple of trips last year unforeseen changes in conditions have resulted in a change from level 5 to 9 or even 10. The lesson from this was that in a peer group of mates it is important to have an agreed decision making process or even to nominate a "leader" to call the shots when conditions change

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Aled » Sat Feb 02, 2019 3:56 pm

I've used the 'scale' for Leadership training and assessment, peer group paddling decision making and trip planning.
For training purposes scenarios can be envisaged and setup accordingly - it's a manageable process of discovering personal levels of comfort and stress out on the water. It can be used to set agreed challenges for students to show their awareness and capabilities, and also for immersive familiarisation and progression of personal skills.
When on the water with friends, an observation of peer paddlers climbing or dropping the scale can be an effective early warning mechanism to avoid future problems.

I agree with RichJ's notion that commercial Leaders should lead in situations below their personal Reserve threshold - when paddling with peers/friends (Chris' climbing scenario) fun is often found towards the outer limits of control aka. 'landings we walked away from'.

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Re: Should a 4* Leader be a 5* Follower?

Post by Allan Olesen » Sat Feb 02, 2019 4:12 pm

I wonder if the subject line has been greatly misunderstood.

I read it as "Should you set a higher standard for yourself when you are being lead, than when you are the leader?".

Which I think is a good question. I consider myself a rather good leader, but I can honestly say that I am a pretty shitty follower. When I am not the leader, I pursuit my own goals and sometimes make other group members or the leader worried because they don't know what I am doing.

As a side note:
I have done BC SKL training in the UK system, and the very similar IPP4 training in the Danish system. In the Danish training, this was actually a topic - that we should not only work on being good leaders, but also work on being easy to lead.

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