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Michele Woodward

Michele Woodward

The Art of Followership

Sometimes getting ahead requires something other than leadership.

When I was a kid, my parents decided that rather than celebrate Christmas in the traditional way with mountain of gifts, we'd head to the mountains and spend a week skiing.

Although I may have really wanted the latest 45rpm record made by the Chi-Lites, I wrapped my head around the idea that getting a new pair of gloves and seven days on the slopes might be OK.

OK? No, it was bliss.

Let me be honest, though. While it was Quebec, it was no luxury resort ski trip. There were no bellmen, no hot tubs, no turndown service. We stayed at a co-op lodge (hey, it was the seventies) where we all pitched in with the cooking and the cleaning. The staff of the lodge were ski instructors by day and cooks by night.

And that's how I met Butch.

Butch taught me to ski. Not the basics, mind you, but how to "ski". How to achieve the fluid motion, the effortless dance down the mountain.

And he did it with a very simple technique.

He, in his Québécois way, would shout, "Suivez-moi!" And follow him, I would. I watched where he planted his poles and tried to do the same. His hips and shoulders worked in concert. I mimicked him. He chose a path down the hill, which became my path, too. And at the end of the first week, I looked as if I had been born on skis.

At the age of fourteen, I learned how to follow.

It seems that society pushes us all to be leaders. You can read a zillion books on the topic, or attend a lecture a day purporting to help you get ahead by leading.

When sometimes, getting ahead requires the art of followership.

If you're struggling to grow in your career, or your life, find a mentor - find your own Butch - who's traveled your road before and can impart learning and knowledge that can make your experience richer and more efficient.

When someone smart, with experience, with integrity, calls to you and says, "Suivez-moi!", step into your boots, snap on the bindings and start following.

You'll be surprised at how fast you can go.