50 Ways to Love Your Leader
Stan Skipworth is the Director of Safety at the Claremont Colleges and serves as a public policy/public safety consultant and legislative advisor for national campus law enforcement professional organizations.

Many of us will remember a catchy tune by Paul Simon from the 1970’s called, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.  As I listened to it in my car yesterday during my commute, I found myself actively thinking about trying to follow along with the song as I pondered some strong themes in how we can support those who lead us. 

So, if you happen to remember the melody of this song, then allow me to provide you a parody of how good followers may very well find supportive roles in their organizations—and to their leaders. 

“The answers are all inside your head”
She said to me
“Successes are easy if you
Seek them logically.
I’d like to help you in your struggle
To be key
There must be fifty ways
To love your leader”

Followers above all else need a vision and a clear direction of how and where they can find success in any organization.  Equally important, we as followers should allow leaders to articulate that vision and pursue those ways in which we can add to the group’s success.

She said, “It’s really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning
Won’t be lost or misconstrued
But I’ll repeat myself–
At the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways
To love your leader;
Fifty ways to love your leader”

Followers above all else need a vision and a clear direction of how and where they can find success in any organization.

A leader is cautious to make sure they accomplish “communication” effectively, and to do that, they must be clear on the message they provide and seek to find evidence that the message is understood.  Once they believe they’ve met those objectives, the leader will explain herself with examples of desired performance and behavior.

You just cut down a big cost, Ross
Make a new sale, Dale
Complete a review, Stu
And you’ll see more ‘what I see
Find a new way to save, Dave

Share whatever you know, Zoe’
Lend a helpin’ hand to him, Jim
It’ll make a difference, you’ll see

Help load up the truck, Chuck
Find what it is that they like, Mike 

There’s no limit to do, Drew
Just keep workin’ with me
Find a new path, Kath’
‘So much we can do, Sue
Yes, teamwork is the key

It seems to me that highly effective leaders continually recognize a variety of subtle facets of their organization, and they frequently take time to learn more about the people who dedicate themselves to the growth and forward motion of the company.  Just as importantly, leaders actively call upon those they serve within the department to join in the pursuit of new levels of success, and often in the form of supporting colleagues and co-workers. 

Leaders also take the time to tell those who are contributing significantly how important they are to the group and to allow them the time to master newly-introduced skills and techniques to accomplish their work.  And above all else, leaders thank their team members directly.

She said, “It pleases me 
To see you having so much fun,
And that you understand that

Our work should never be quite done”
I said, “I appreciate that;
And would you please give me one 
more of the fifty ways?”

She said, “Why don’t we both
Just keep on doing what is right
And I believe that very soon
You’ll see our team achieve new ‘higher heights”
And then she thanked me
And I realized she probably was right
There must be fifty ways
To love your leader
Fifty ways to love your leader

Perhaps most rewarding is the very real developmental process in which followers begin to understand much more fully the rate of their growth and the positive influence they can and do have upon their colleagues.  This is, of course, the very time frame when the strongest followers also begin to evolve as informal leaders among their peers and begin to establish a very new sense of self and value to the organization. 

We’ve all known for a long time that great leaders develop a genuine and deep caring for their co-workers.  As followers, we should seek to find ways – through our actions – that demonstrates our genuine care and love for those who support and advocate for us.

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