I grew up in Sub-Saharan Africa where it is not uncommon to see a chicken and her chicks roaming around, rummaging for food and water. These chicks look up to their mother-hen for direction, guidance, protection, sustenance, and security. The chicken is their leader in every sense of the word. It would take about six months for what was once a chick to grow into egg-laying chickens laden with the responsibility to bear, feed, protect and lead her little chicks.
It doesn’t matter where you are on the chicken vs. egg which came first debate; one thing is for sure, the chick learned how to lead by following the chicken. The chick is a follower before it is a leader. The chick is a dependent before it can be depended upon. The chick is protected before it becomes a protector. It is a passenger before it is a driver. It hides under the wings of its mother before its wings provided shelter for her chicks. It was a chick first before it was a chicken.
The art and science of leadership are best learned in the posture of a follower. It is the posture of a follower that compels leaders to read, because for those few hours, as their eyes travel through the pages of that book and their minds are transported into the unique universe created by the author, they find themselves following an astute leader. They learn things they never knew, get clarity on things once fuzzy or are reminded of insights forgotten. A truly great leader understands the inexhaustible value of followership. He or she knows that only a great follower will ever make a great leader. Only the one who is willing to submit to another’s leadership will be trained to navigate the currents and tides of his or her leadership.
Here is what I found out: in 8-12 weeks, a chick grows into meat chicken. But it takes all of 6 months to raise a laying chicken. If you leave the process of followership too early—drawn away by the allure of leadership—you will be eaten alive by the rigors and adversity of leadership. But if you take time to sit under leadership, learning and growing as you go, you will one day emerge a laying chicken ready to lead your own chicks to their own purpose, potential, and destiny.
So don’t be too eager for the -en. Embrace your chick status for as long as it lasts.