The Grinch Who Discovered ‘Followership’ — Tammy Jersey

Talking Trends
3 min readMay 8, 2024
Image by Freepik

I wanted to share a funny story about one of my clients who brought the concept of followership to light. He may have gone a little overboard, but the change was definitely noticeable!

Scott has been a key, long-time leader in a large, multinational corporation. He is the consummate perfectionist, both for himself and for what he expects from others. With his fancy suits and slicked-back hair, he is known as the grouch who publicly chastises junior professionals for minor mistakes. Needless to say, he wasn’t winning any popularity contests.

When I first started coaching Scott, he wasn’t very interested in changing his ways. He laughed when I asked him why he kicked junior employees out of meetings when they raised off-topic questions. Clearly, I had my work cut out for me!

After a few sessions together, I began getting a little more aggressive with him and he started to laugh. When I asked him why he was laughing, he said no one ever spoke to him that way and he wished they would. I told him that he didn’t invite it. This was the opening I needed to get him to let down his guard. He finally acknowledged that his grouchiness was working against him.

In short order, Scott began to experiment with softening his tough exterior. He began to see the value in adjusting his approach as a leader, demonstrating glimpses of compassion and transparency.

A kinder gentler Scott started to cultivate an atmosphere of openness and teamwork. His subordinates responded by sharing their views and asking questions. Scott started to guide the younger professionals when they missed some important points in their presentations. To his colleagues’ surprise, he had stopped being a grouch.

Scott even started opening up about his areas for growth. He was finally showing some vulnerability, asking others for input and advice rather than insisting that everyone do things his way.

Scott was so proud of his progress that he wanted to make sure everyone noticed. He showed up at a corporate town hall with 600+ employees dressed in a Grinch costume. Scott’s boss sent me a photo of this and asked me ‘What did you do to him?!!’ The audience roared at his self-deprecating antics played out on stage — acting out his shift from grouchiness to generosity. It was like something out of a movie, with Scott prancing around the stage, owning up to his previous misbehavior in front of everyone.

In the end, Scott still wears his fancy suits and sets high personal standards, but there’s a sense of heart in his approach that even the Grinch would envy. The results speak for themselves: people love working with Scott now. He has gained the followership he needed — but never knew he wanted.

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