“Lead, follow, or get out of the way” sounds pejorative—even arrogant—but it ultimately speaks truth about most situations involving a team. A leader must know, or at least sense, the right action to take at any given moment; sometimes that action entails yielding leadership to another team member. So let’s break down this quote to identify the functional behavioral requirements of leadership.
Northouse presents the notion that leadership is a relationship or process of collaboration in which each team member is needed. The leader should be cognizant of each member’s interests, ideas, passions, attitudes, and motivations. 1
As a leader, you must reflect on all of your output. This includes how you relate to those you lead; how you collaborate with and affect the actions of your teammates; and how you communicate the process and influence a team toward a goal—which is crucial to the entire team’s success. Allow me to illustrate these core principles.
Early in the NP movement, it was necessary to develop a collective vision for the profession’s future. What was the purpose of an NP? What could we add to the existing health care landscape? The founders and early proponents of our profession, recognizing that there was power in numbers and strength in collaboration, identified a mission: Provide health care services for those who were underserved. Working as a group, NPs leveraged strength in numbers, creating a more efficient way to move forward and achieve that mission. 2 In those early NP pioneers, I recognize the leadership skills—ability to engage individuals and coordinate activities to move an agenda forward—that are key components of any relationship.
Later, in 1984, a small group of like-minded NPs (of which I was one) joined together to investigate the possibility of a starting an organization dedicated to NPs. As a profession, we were woefully underrepresented nationally. Our role was not fully understood, especially by legislators, and there were laws in place that impeded patients’ access to care by NPs. The existing nursing organizations were in no position to dedicate their resources to represent us professionally or politically.
Several colleagues and I were willing to take a risk to move our profession forward, even if it meant alienating other NPs. Each of us was able to work autonomously, as well as in a team, and we all viewed adversity as an opportunity. This gave us the impetus and motivation to carry out the footwork needed to achieve our goal. These skills—determination, energy, persistence—are essential for anyone looking to start a business or get involved in an organization.
Maybe when my colleagues and I formed the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), we weren’t all leaders … but our relationship consisted of the passion and collective vision needed to work together and achieve. We knew we had to build on each other’s strengths and remain open and respectful of each other’s ideas. We believed we had nothing to lose and everything to gain and—honestly—we succeeded on all fronts!
Continue to: Influencing