Lead & Follow

In this episode of the Lead & Follow podcast, host Sharna Fabiano interviews author Fran Kick, an expert in leadership and followership development. Fran discusses his experience teaching leadership courses and the importance of fostering a mutual relationship between leaders and followers. He also shares insights from one of the Games That KiCK™ series of games entitled The ABC Game, which promotes active engagement and encourages individuals to take turns leading and following. Fran also highlights the significance of early life experiences in shaping views on leadership and offers strategies for educators and parents to nurture more leaders in the world. Listen and gain valuable insights on leadership and followership from this engaging conversation.

“Your approach to presentation design, at least for me, reflects your understanding of leadership and followership interdependence really beautifully. Your focus on audience experience, tossing out the slides, inviting people into a shared activity. It’s a real embodiment of the leadership followership paradigm.”
Sharna Fabiano
Sharna Fabiano
Host and Author of Lead & Follow

SHARNA FABIANO: Welcome to Lead & Follow, a podcast that explores the dance between leadership and followership. I’m your host, Sharna Fabiano, author of the book Lead & Follow. My guests and I share stories and practical tips to help you connect and collaborate better at work. As always, thanks so much for listening.

Today I’m speaking with Fran Kick. Fran is an author, educational consultant and professional speaker who works with corporate and educational organizations that want to develop better leadership and smarter followership for faster, long term results. As a company owner, entrepreneur and consultant, Fran combines his master’s degree and clinical background in educational psychology with over 30 years in the K-20 education and business worlds. He has been inspiring people to kick it in and take the lead since 1986 with convention and conference keynotes, breakouts, in-services, orientations, workshops, programs, retreats, consulting, and publishing. In 1999, Fran earned the National Speakers Association’s most prestigious earned designation, the CSP or Certified Speaking Professional. He has given over 3,000 presentations in all 50 U.S. States, plus 6 Canadian provinces in front of audiences of 40 to 10,000 participants. And in nearly all of those, Fran has presented leadership development and followership development together, whether he’s working with fifth graders or Fortune 500 companies. Needless to say, I’m delighted to speak with Fran today to learn more about his body of work and his discoveries over the years presenting and teaching leadership and followership together. Fran, welcome to the podcast.

FRAN KICK: Sharna, thank you so much. It’s a privilege and an honor to share some time with you.

SHARNA FABIANO: Fabulous. I feel the same way. And as listeners now know from the introduction, you’ve been speaking about leadership and followership together for quite a while, which is quite extraordinary. I’d love to ask you to briefly share your origin story with these concepts and especially how you came to integrate them together.

FRAN KICK: Well, I grew up as a musician, in fact classically and jazz trained to teach music education. And ever since I was playing in an ensemble, there was always a clear leadership role with the conductor or the teacher. But the thing that interested me the most was they don’t make a sound. It’s the ensemble that produces the music. And so the relationship between the conductor and the ensemble is what makes that music come to life. And I think that was one of the first reasons why whenever I talked about leadership, even back in the 80s when I was teaching a lot of summer camps with kids, I would always bring up the idea that leadership happens with followership, because if you don’t have anyone following you, then you’re probably not leading very effectively.

SHARNA FABIANO: I’m so glad to know that about you. Listeners know, of course, that I trained as a dancer and specifically as a dance improviser. And now I feel like we have even more in common in terms of our roots in the way we see the world, how beautiful! You mentioned the camps and I know that’s been a substantial chunk of your work over the years. Would you talk a little more about how that evolved and how you build in the learning moments around leadership and followership for young musicians?

FRAN KICK: Well, what’s interesting is that doing the summer camps, there would always be this need to, okay, we’re going to do small groups afterwards and have them talk about or debrief what they’re learning on that particular day. And so we started creating kind of like guides for the leaders of those small groups. And there were college students or educators that volunteered their time to lead the small groups. Eventually we started having so many of those that we put them into a book format because they kind of fell in line pretty nicely with that. And so that’s really the beginning of our publishing as well, trying to get kids and people who work with kids to look at leadership and followership in a different way than what was traditionally presented and in some cases still is. There’s a lot of student leadership development work that’s just corporate stuff watered down for kids with their language when the truth is it’s not really developmentally appropriate or contextually viable. So we tried to create something specifically for kids and people who worked with kids. And that’s what has grown over the years to evolve.

I got really interested in generations and how they are formed and develop. And colleague Neil Howe, who with his partner William Strauss who is no longer with us, wrote the seminal book on generations. And the fascinating thing is that even if you go back to some of the work of Morris Massey where he talks about that around the age of ten, our values are kind of inoculated into us right. And how we see the world is so influenced by that age plus or minus two or three years because we’re leaving the family context that we’re in and dealing with the reality of the world and kind of testing some of those notions. And so I always saw presenting leadership and followership as sort of like a laboratory experiment. How could we create up a little experiment for students to try and learn from and then apply those lessons to other areas of their life, not only there and then, but later on, hopefully as well?

SHARNA FABIANO: Very cool. I love the idea of creating a laboratory for kids around their own values, especially at that critical age. Maybe we can shift a little bit into some of how you design leadership and followership programs for this age group. What are some of the most important things to take into consideration?

FRAN KICK: Well, when I first started and was going through undergrad to be an educator, everyone talked about a seven-minute attention span because that was about the average length of time between commercials on TV. Those were the segments on Sesame Street. And so everyone kind of groomed themselves to pay attention for that long before they needed a break. Well fast forward with the Internet and technology and we’re probably down to about 7 seconds if we round up for most people. So the thing that maybe just evolved or happened was because it was a summer camp setting, is the game approach. So using a game to teach a lesson, so set up some information that they might need to know, actually facilitate the activity or the game, and then debrief what happened in the game that will distill the lessons about leadership and followership. And they’re very simple. In fact, as I did more and more work with corporate audiences and adults, I noticed that the games were even more powerful for them than the kids because the kids sometimes think, oh, it’s just a game. Great, we’re going to play and that’s it. Whereas the adults, they can talk about a profound lesson in the context of a game that maybe they wouldn’t talk about in the context of their workplace or with their boss or direct reports, but because it was a quote game. They’re willing to talk about how it happened in the game and then realize some of the lessons that come to life from that.

SHARNA FABIANO: Yeah, that’s so beautiful. And I really appreciate the insight because I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in the movement exercises I do. It’s almost as if the game creates an imaginary space, the quote liminal space, perhaps. And the brain is then allowed to operate a bit differently because you’ve freed it from its usual conceptual framework with all the usual conceptual restrictions of say, an everyday work environment. So it’s actually possible to learn a whole new way of being, which is pretty powerful. So yes, to games for everyone. Fran, I don’t want you to give away all your secrets, but would you be willing to share an example of one of the games you’ve had a lot of success with? And then of course, we’re going to link to the materials in the show notes.

FRAN KICK: Yeah, in the show notes. We’ll put this in so that anyone who’s listening this later on can have access to it. It’s a really simple game to facilitate. I call it The ABC Game because you start by making letters of the alphabet with a group of people in a big open space. Simple concept. The only rule is you can’t talk. And so what ends up happening is, depending on the nature of the group, one or two or three people will kind of emerge as leaders temporarily to do something, maybe make the point of the A or the line in the B or whatever the situation might be. And then other people will see what they’re doing and go, that’s a good idea. Yeah, let’s help them or support them. And it’s never the same person the whole game. And so to better understand it, you can go to kickitin.com/abc and that’s the game. And it’s a PDF guide that they can have for free if they use your first name: “sharna” And then they can see the whole structure of the game as well as the debrief and the points we try to make. But you can imagine right now that as the game progresses, the group starts to work more together and more people share the responsibility of leading and following. And so one of the many questions I’ll debrief is how did you know when to lead and when to follow? Because almost without failure, someone will step up one point and then they’ll just back off and support at another point. And I think that encapsulates that mutual relationship or the dynamic between leadership and followership that comes to life beautifully in the game. And we never designated anybody, we never gave anybody a title or a position. But leadership was in play, followership was in play. And it was that give and take “dance” as you would say, that comes to life.

SHARNA FABIANO: You know, what I love about that game is, well, many things, but one is that you don’t actually have to assign it, right? You don’t have to get into that cognitive. Okay, now I am doing leader role versus follower role. Now, sometimes you want to do that. So it is useful to assign sometimes, particularly in work environments. But here I loved how you described that leadership just emerges and it’s not always like the same people or in the same order. And then followership emerges as a companion role. And then it’s so visceral, you can see it and then take it out and apply it elsewhere.

FRAN KICK: The cool thing also that tends to occur is that no one takes over the game aggressively because it’s a silly little game, right? And you can do different things, numbers, map, whatever you want to do. But what’s interesting is I talk about what if someone did? What if someone wanted to be the leader all the time? How do you think the group would have responded to that? And the feedback is always great because it’s everything from they would be annoying to well, no one else would be thinking and we would just be doing what they’re telling us to do. And so those kinds of conversations then that come out of that game can tie in and relate to the organization they’re in, or the company they’re in, or even a family dynamic, right? We all acquiesce to the supposed leader in the family at certain times. Maybe there’s a way to examine that a little bit. And that’s why I think the use of games is so powerful. The other thing, especially when you deal with kids, is they’re not texting. They can’t play the game and text or check in with their friends on their phone. And so it almost forces their participation at a level that, I’ll be honest, many students don’t sit for an hour without their phone. Right?

SHARNA FABIANO: Yeah. No, it’s true. I mean, I think adults can take that as a note, too. But yeah, the reason I’m still so committed to doing improvisational exercises and the game is very similar, I think, in this, that it puts you in your body, which puts you in the moment. And I just haven’t found anything that’s such a rich learning environment for this kind of role. Skill acquisition. It’s just so powerful.


SHARNA FABIANO: Yeah. You’ve worked with education at all levels. I want to briefly maybe dip into your work in higher ed. I know that in particular, you worked at Wilmington College and as the director of the Wilmington Leadership Institute. Would you share a bit about your work there, integrating followership and leadership?

FRAN KICK: Wilmington College in Ohio was one of the first colleges to offer a minor in leadership studies. And the Dean of Students at the time and the Director of Greek Life were kind of cohort modeling the coursework, and they got to the point where they’re like, we need someone else to be teaching. I had done retreats for them before, as well as their college orientation, and they asked, hey, you live so close. What if you just came in and taught on Monday and you can travel the rest of the week, but we need you to teach the junior and senior levels of these leadership courses for us. They were very open to kind of adjusting the curriculum and keeping it a project-based kind of model. So it wasn’t just using a textbook and going through things, but we could actually make it a little bit more interactive and applicable. And so that was a lot of fun. And the interesting thing about that work was that most of the challenges that college student leaders had wasn’t so much about their position or sense of responsibility or even their personality or how they presented themselves. They always came to class with, how do I reach these people and get them more engaged in what’s going on? How can we create more inertia so that this project could continue after I’m gone, rather than always be dependent on someone leading it like me? And that’s what intrigued me a lot more about followership and digging into that process. We actually expanded it and brought high school kids on campus every morning so high school kids would come for a leadership retreat on campus. Oh, by the way, they got to eat lunch in the cafeteria and tour the college and see it was a cool place. And then in the afternoon and evening, I taught the courses with the college students. So it was just a lot of fun to be on that campus. And it was a Quaker founded university, and so their ideals of how we work together in egalitarian sort of way also reinforced that equal relationship between leaders and followers just by the very nature of the campus environment. Although I will say they did have the mascot as the Fighting Quakers at the time, which I thought was just ironic or someone poking fun at it. I don’t know.

SHARNA FABIANO: That does seem like a surprising image for a Quaker. Yeah, very funny. I’m very struck by your mention here of sustaining a project over time and linking that with followership. I wonder if you could explore that a little bit more. How did you see that playing out?

FRAN KICK: At the time, the Kellogg Foundation was supporting organizations that on a campus would also impact the community, and the Social Change Model of Leadership Development also came out at about that same time. And so what we tried to do with the students’ projects, if you will, was say you’re going to do a project on campus, but it has to involve the community or be embedded in the community at large in Wilmington. And the ultimate goal is that you’ll launch this project and that it can continue. It’s not just a one and done. How can we create something that will continue? And so that was the impetus of using that kind of mindset with those projects. And some of them did continue on after that student graduated. Some of them didn’t. But it was a neat mindset to kind of frame it in. And if you know anything about the Social Change Model, it believes that we lead ourselves, within the context of a group, and then the greater community or society. And so those three levels of focus tied in beautifully with it as well.

SHARNA FABIANO: Yeah. Thank you. So well said. And it reminds me of a previous episode I’d like to direct listeners to as well with Tom Klaus, an expert in nonprofit change processes. But to your point, please tell me if you agree with this, Fran, because I think there’s an important note in what you’re saying about how a focus on continuity over time prompts this stronger or clearer recognition of the role of followership, which then directly impacts, of course, how we see our own roles as leaders. If we happen to be the leader of a project. What I mean is, when I put myself into the scenario you’re describing, say I’m in the position of creating a project that I want to outlast me, I immediately then see that my leadership is temporary. Right. So the role I’m in is not going to last forever. Somebody else is going to be the leader before long. And so then I’m actually less attached to that title. I’m less focused on myself in general, and instead, I think more of all the other people I hope will be involved and on what they might want to contribute.

FRAN KICK: Absolutely. And one of your responsibilities has to be kind of encouraging followers to step up beyond just following, even so that in the future they could see themselves as sustaining this and contributing towards it and working together. You see this a lot in youth parent booster organizations. Some mom or dad will say, hey, I’ll help out, but don’t put me in charge. I think that’s because if they are chosen as the leader, suddenly now they have so many responsibilities. People are looking to them and they’re like, hey, I just want to support. I just want to help. I want to contribute. I remember when our boys, we have twin sons, and when they were in Cub Scouts, we went to the first Cub Scout meeting. They were making rockets in the park and shooting them up in the air. And both of my boys knew that I myself was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. And so the leaders at the pack said, hey, does anyone here have scouting experience? And of course, the two boys raised their head. “My dad does! My dad does!” Oh, we’re looking for leaders. And I said, you know, I travel a lot doing what I do. I couldn’t be consistent for you, but I’m willing to help out. So I’d be an Assistant Den Leader if that would work for? Absolutely! So I got the shirt, I got the patch, Assistant Den Leader, the whole deal. Two weeks after I said yes, the den leader resigned.


FRAN KICK: And then guess where everyone looked? “Fran, would you be the Den Leader?” I’m like, I’ve already got the patch. How about if I just stay the Assistant Den Leader? We find someone else to co-lead this thing, and we’ll be able to make it happen. But it was an interesting lesson on that positional kind of mindset that people have. And if we can tap other people to help out, even if just a little bit, for a short period of time, that’ll prove to them, hey, I could do this, and then they might emerge as leaders in the future.

One of the longest summer camps I’ve worked with for over 20 some years, has a volunteer group of people called SWAGs. It’s just their nickname. They help out, they set up, they schlep stuff, they do all the grunt work. And we’re always telling them, every year, you’re going to meet a camper who you think is pretty sharp, intentionally go up to them and say, man, someday you should be a SWAG. And so that team does that every year for over 20 some years. And at this point, we’re going to start in June with another camp. And 80± percent of the SWAGs were students at that summer camp.


FRAN KICK: I can’t say that that’s what caused it to happen, but it certainly contributes some help.

SHARNA FABIANO: It makes it so clear to me why it’s important to use the terms leadership and followership when we’re talking about community and sustainability and group involvement, because there’s still hesitance about that like, “Oh, no one wants to be a follower!” But if we just say we want everyone involved or we want the community involved, it’s too vague. I find I don’t know if you’re finding this, but I find it’s just too vague and it doesn’t deliver on what we want, which is calling out the new SWAGs, right? It’s saying, no, you could be in this role, you could be a leader, you could be a follower. I want to be the assistant. No, I’m really going to stay with that role. Or something like co-leading, but using this term. I just think it’s really important to use the words and clarify what we’re doing with each other if we really want it to happen.

FRAN KICK: Well, the thing that I self-check myself with is anytime I say the word leadership, I intentionally add followership to the phrase somehow, some way, shape, or form so that people understand that it’s the relationship between the two. And I think the same could be said for leader and follower. If you think of those as roles, then whenever you say leader and the followers that enable that to happen, it’s important and it’s a simple thing to do. But I think if more people in the space of advocating for leadership also advocated for followership, well, we’d have better leaders and smarter followers and that’s the tagline that we use.

SHARNA FABIANO: It’s a beautiful tagline. It really says it all. And I think I could talk about summer camps with you all day, Fran, but I do want to move along and give listeners a sense of how you approach corporate work as well. What are some of your go-to ways to introduce leadership and followership to adults?

FRAN KICK: Most of the presentations, workshops, or consulting that I would do with adults usually starts with the perception that they have. And I don’t talk about the perception of leadership and followership. It’s more about how we perceive the world and how we see things. And so there are a number of activities that I’ll use to just get them to see situations in different ways so that they understand that not everybody sees the world the way I see it. Right. And I can’t assume that just because I see it one way, someone else is going to see it that way too. And that perception awareness, let’s say, helps the conversation or the awareness or the understanding about how maybe we could look at leadership differently and then add the followership and continue to do that. Because most of the time when I’m brought into an organization to help with adults, it’s twofold. One, it’s adults who work with kids, but then it’s adults who want to function at a higher level or are struggling to learn something or do something that they think they could do better. And that gives them the excuse to bring in someone like Fran Kick to help as a resource. I find that audiences are more open to receiving new information if rather than starting with that information, I start with, hey, let’s take a look at how we see things and understand things first and then move from there.

SHARNA FABIANO: That’s really fascinating. Perception awareness is definitely one of my personal takeaways from this episode and I want to underline it because people like me, and perhaps many of our listeners as well, may be wondering how do I introduce a concept like followership that I know is going to be uncomfortable? Or how can I propose a way of thinking about collaboration that’s even a little bit different? But this is so skillful. It’s like you’re laying the foundation for new information by pointing participants toward the general fact that we all have a unique perspective. It reminds me a lot too of the research on mindfulness practice and why that works so well. But to name it, perception seems even more accessible to me. Really great!

FRAN KICK: The other thing I learned from a colleague, Stephen Glenn, he used to always talk about how this experience, this workshop, whatever, it might be valuable for you. And if not, think about how it might be valuable for the people you work with or live with and you can take that with you and share it with them. And if it’s not for you, or the people you work with, then perhaps someone you really don’t appreciate and maybe they would get something out of it. So that there’s always that mindset of someone’s going to get something out of this. This may not apply to me right now, but it might apply in the future or a conversation. And as I do more and more work with people who are in coaching roles or mentoring roles or managing roles, it is interesting how many of the conflicts or conversations that they have also could parallel a parent talking to their kid role. Not that they’re diminishing the seniority thing or the age thing, but the point is that there’s a conversation of like, parents who tell their kids what to do and when to do it all the time complain that their kids don’t figure things out for themselves. That’s ironic as parents. And I think the same thing could be for managers, right? If a manager is micromanaging their team and telling them everything they want to do and then they wonder why they don’t take initiative on their own.

SHARNA FABIANO: It’s so true. And I think this is one of those huge blind spots that a lot of us have, especially in large organizations where there tends to be a lot of inertia in how people communicate and work together and we just keep going on autopilot. But yes, it’s terribly ironic because there’s at the same time so much stated desire on the part of business leaders, or employers, to have more initiative or engagement from their people. But to your point, I suspect that can only happen with this deeper adjustment in everyone’s perception of how work gets done together. So I wonder if you could actually take us into the room with you a bit more how do you ease groups into that sort of conversation?

FRAN KICK: Well, you should know, and your listeners should know that when I’m speaking to an audience, I try not to be like lots of other speakers out there because everybody’s speaking and presenting these days, right? So, like, a few things just to know, because if I had never met you on listening to this podcast, you wouldn’t know this. I never use PowerPoint, I just don’t use slides. It’s very rare. And if I do, it’s usually just one or two things that sets up a video clip that we’ll use, and we use lots of interactive activities or games. And so, for example, in some situations, we’ll have 200 images scattered on the floor as they walk into the room because I want them to instantly know, okay, this is different. This is going to be different. And then that way it also opens them up to kind of like, be curious. And I think when you’re curious about something, boy, I wonder what’s going to happen next. You’re more engaged than if you’re like, “Oh, here comes the slides!”

SHARNA FABIANO: As a performer, I really appreciate your focus on sort of choreographing the opening in such a way to invite people in as soon as possible. I wonder if you have any other tips on presenting that might encourage curiosity and help people come into the present moment together.

FRAN KICK: And this goes for anyone who’s presenting anything, even singing, dancing, performing. The more you make it about yourself, you are very challenged to get most of the audience to engage. And I think that we live in a world where we have lots of people making it about themselves, right? Let me tell you all about me. My pet peeve for student audiences is when someone will stand up in front of a bunch of kids and say, “Good morning, boys and girls.” And then the kids go, “Good morning, Mrs. Smith.” And then they say that famous line, “Oh, you could do better than that.” Good morning… But it’s like, look, stop doing that. Just don’t do that. But in the adult corporate world, it always frustrates me because we have to start with an introduction. And I always have a short introduction, very, very short, because I believe the length of a speaker’s introduction is inversely proportionate to the quality of the so, you know, one time I was introduced by someone who said, boy, Fran didn’t give me much of an introduction. So I called his mom and she made this stuff up. It’s like, what are you doing? This is not your show. This is for the members of the audience. And so, again, don’t make it about yourself. Make it more about the audience and their perspective and point of view and what they’re trying to get out of it. I think that’s an important lesson whenever you’re working with a group.

SHARNA FABIANO: Thank you so much for that. I also want to comment. For listeners how your approach to presentation design, at least for me, reflects your understanding of leadership and followership interdependence really beautifully. Your focus on audience experience, tossing out the slides, inviting people into a shared activity. It’s a real embodiment of the leadership followership paradigm.

FRAN KICK: Yeah. And I don’t think for an adult audience, we need to start with this phrase: “Before we begin, let me tell you a little bit about me.” Just don’t do that.

SHARNA FABIANO: I’m realizing just right now, as you’re pointing out that pattern of the lengthy introduction and how formulaic it is. It’s almost doing the opposite of what we need, which is to connect with the audience or to connect with the people we’re going to be leading. What I mean is the lengthy introduction actually disconnects us from the listener because it increases at least the perceived power, distance or the status gap. And we know that too much of a gap in status actually makes connection impossible. And that’s a huge part of the challenge in a hierarchical organization. In fact, it’s just managing those status gaps and keeping them functional. So to bring it back to leading and following, it’s really that felt sense of connection that enables us to lead and follow in the first place. And that’s how we learn, and that’s how all of our work gets done.

FRAN KICK: That’s the brilliant part about your work. I mean, if we don’t connect, how are we going to collaborate? How are we ever going to create? Right. That sequence is a powerful one that I think people need to keep in mind, because when I start talking, think about if you went out on a date with someone in your life and you always talked about yourself and you never asked questions about them, you’re probably not going to maybe get another date.

SHARNA FABIANO: Yes, the date is such a great example for listeners who aren’t familiar with my book Lead & Follow, where that sequence you’re mentioning comes from: Connect, Collaborate, Co-create it’s the way dance, improvisers, train. And you can really see it or the lack of it on a date or in a meeting or in a presentation, or really anywhere. People are trying to do something together. Fran, before we close, I want to ask if you’d be willing to share a story about your daughter’s elementary classroom. It’s the story you recently shared at the Global Followership Conference at Christopher Newport University.

FRAN KICK: Yeah, I think it’s a screaming example of how early life experiences can taint our view of leadership and followership. Anna’s first or second grade classroom had to designate someone as the classroom representative. And so the teachers thought this would be a great idea to bring democracy into action. And so they were going to have an election. So they had this process where people could nominate themselves or someone could nominate another person. And of course, at that age in life, everyone’s nominating themselves, no one’s, nominating another person. Because in first and second grade. That’s your main focus. And so I think what was interesting is they didn’t clearly define what the responsibilities were. We just knew that this person would represent the class. And so I asked Anna, I said, “So what does that mean they do?” She goes, “I really don’t know. I guess they go to a meeting and represent us. I have no idea.” And so they had the election, and the most popular person in the class won the election, of course. And then the thoughtful, quiet kids or the ones know aren’t the center of attention or aren’t extroverted. Like, that felt really disengaged and like, I’m not a leader is what Anna said. And I’m like, Wait!


FRAN KICK: The fact that you didn’t run or get nominated or get elected doesn’t mean you’re not a leader, because you’re always setting the example you know, the way you respond is going to influence how other people respond. So that in itself is leading by example in leadership. But I thought to myself, boy, this is how it all starts, isn’t it? Like, that’s why people disengage or just say, I’m not a leader. And that’s sad because we need lots of leaders in our world. And I’m convinced that even later on in life, people make the same statement, I’m not going to run for the school board. I’m not a leader, right? I’m not going to contribute in that service project. I’ll help out, but don’t put me in charge to use that phrase again. And I often wonder if, as elementary school teachers who may or may not be listening to this boy, if we thought about that a little differently, that might be healthy and constructive for our world.

SHARNA FABIANO: That is truly a screaming example. And it’s startling to me when I hear similar anecdotes from friends of mine who are parents, how a little thing like that can totally disengage their child or make them think immediately, oh, I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough or whatever to be the chosen one, right, the leader. This identity that suddenly is more important or more valuable than other identities in the group. And I think that’s so dangerous, not just for kids, but for adults too. So it reminds me how essential it is that we reclaim and reframe both followership and leadership at the same time. So I wonder if you have any final guidance for educators or trainers in how we can do that work more effectively.

FRAN KICK: Well, I will lean on my counseling background a little bit. I think the questions we ask others drive some of the answers that we get. And so rather than ask “Why,” which is an important thing to understand, why you do stuff and Simon Sinek and all that, I get that. But I think when we’re having conversations with others, asking “what…” and “how…” questions is more valuable. What did you observe? How did you see that impacting the process? What kinds of things could we have done differently to make your job easier? How would you like to see your job in the future become more involved with X, Y or Z? And if you stick with what and how questions and avoid the why questions, you tend to get better answers and better thinking from the person you’re asking the question to. And it also gives you some great evidence to follow up with them on. How can I help you achieve what you just outlined for me there. Marshall Goldsmith has a great question he shares with lots of his audiences, “How can I be a better blank?” So, like, how can I be a better manager? How can I be a better spouse? How can I be a better boyfriend or girlfriend? How can I be a better contributor? I think if we asked ourselves and other people, how can I be a better blank? And then get that input, we could improve what we’re doing a lot.

SHARNA FABIANO: Thank you so much for that. Very practical. And actionable. Fran, is there anything else floating to the surface here for you as we wrap up for today? Anything that has a particularly strong resonance for you right now in your own work around leadership and followership?

FRAN KICK: I’m struck by the need for “humble leadership” and there’s actually a book titled that by Edgar and Peter Schein. They wrote it. It’s the power of relationships, openness and trust. But that idea of being a humble leader, I think, would be refreshing in our world today. You might get more attention from others when you’re humble. And I know that the biggest struggle I face, especially working sometimes with groups, is I think about what I’m sharing with them, about the dynamic between leadership and followership and how we need to collaborate and work together and pay attention and respond appropriately, get more involvement in what’s going on, all those good messages. And then when you look at what people see in the world as an example of being arrogant and confident and over aggressive, I just think that anyone who’s listening to this might consider, how could I develop more humble leadership in myself and the people I work with? And obviously, the first place that starts with is gratitude. So thank you, Sharna, for allowing me to share some time here because this has been so much fun. And I find that the world will change one conversation at a time. And the more conversations people can have about the importance of leadership and followership, perhaps we’ll move this needle in a constructive direction.

SHARNA FABIANO: Well, it’s a beautiful note to end on. Thank you so much. And listeners, please make time to learn a bit more about Fran’s incredible work and the educational materials that he has created for you to help create better leadership and smarter followership in your own work at kickitin.com. Check the show notes for links to all of the resources in this episode. And once again, thank you so much Fran. I look forward to our next conversation. You have been listening to the Lead & Follow podcast. Special thanks to composer Glover Gill for providing our beautiful music. If you enjoyed this episode, please click subscribe and give us a five-star rating. It helps us reach new listeners. And if your team or organization is interested in followership training, pick up a copy of my book Lead & Follow or reach out to me anytime. I’d love to help.

Fran Kick

FRAN KICK works with corporate and education organizations, groups, and associations that want to develop better leaders and smarter followers for faster long-term results. As an author, educational consultant, and professional speaker, he always shares relevant research, real-world insights, and actionable ideas YOU can implement to motivate yourself. So you can Kick It In and Take the Lead at work, in school, at home, and in life!