Zoom in, Zoom out

Image

I’m not a great photographer…. I’m not even a “good” photographer.  I’m not skilled at aligning the “composition” and “lines” with aspects of lighting and “depth.”  Photographers are credited with having created or constructed art from behind the lens of a camera, however what we see is the focus of their work – aspects of the world that capture their attention.

As I reflect on what scholars often refer to as follower-centered leadership, I began to consider the relationship between a photographer and leader.  In A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Leadership, Jackson and Parry refer to Meindl’s contribution to leadership studies by noting, “leadership is fundamentally predicated on the relationship between leaders and followers, the followers almost invariably took a minor supporting role in the analysis of leadership” (p. 47).  They go on to describe that research has often focused on how followers represent leaders in their thought systems – unless follower recognize leadership, then it isn’t leadership.

I envision photographers as leaders – behind the camera, zooming in on specific challenges and opportunities; honing in on followers needs, social issues and the demands of day.  Zooming out, they are charged with seeing the whole situation – conceptualizing strategy, communicating broadly and often offering solutions to small and systemic problems.

What happens when they zoom in and focus on the “wrong” composition?  

ImageThey zoom in, but miss opportunities to capture the detail of a situation that followers determine may necessitate leadership.

Or they zoom out… for too long, too often… and don’t capture the images that tell the story of their mission.  Can one image – either close up or from afar – capture the essence of leadership?  I don’t think so.Image

Recently, I had the opportunity to support an undergraduate student as she conducted a research project with 10 school-age youth, asking them to identify healthy foods in their home, at school and in the community.  Linda gave them each a camera.  It was theirs to keep; a tool for exploring the world.  The camera was theirs to keep.  The images they brought back were remarkable.  Each of them saw the world differently.  They captured images close up, from far away and every where in the middle.  They identified, through their lens and in their world what healthy living meant to them.

Linda is a fantastic photographer.  She chose, however, to share the leadership of this process with them.  Her photographs could have easily been grouped, discussed and analyzed for the purpose of the study, rather she allow them to co-author an experience in which they identified and shaped the outcome.  She promoted a co-creation of leadership by empowering, inspiring and confirming their experiences, skills and interests; she promoted them as leaders.

I value the many perspectives I capture from behind the lens of a camera; I find more joy in celebrating the perspectives captured by others seeing and experiencing the same opportunities to define a common purpose.

When we consider follower-centered leadership, it calls into question how we refer to a “follower.”  This question was raised by one of your colleague’s recently stating, “I just feel that subordinate is a demeaning term.”

So, if we aspire to co-produce leadership in a more follower-centric manner, generating an equilibrium in which leadership can be focused and sustained from the perspective of “leaders” and “followers”, how should we refer to “subordinates”?

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35 Responses to Zoom in, Zoom out

  1. Jacob Melton says:

    So when I started reading this one thing hit me and that’s all I was thinking about. It relates to one of our first Kellerman authors, Mary Follett. Her the idea of understanding “The whole picture” came to mind and that is what I mainly took away from this. I’m having trouble with the question on subordinates but the use of photography as a metaphor is perfect. Especially the idea that as leaders we must not be to specific and detailed, and also must not remove ourselves so far from our followers that we have no effect. This post really made me think.

    • Grace Ellis says:

      I agree with Jacob. Follett’s message about the “whole situation” ties in with the idea of including everyone and considering the big picture, as well as each individual’s strengths and values. It is important that a group can work together as a team, and the purpose of leadership is not one person being raised above others; it is about one person inspiring and influencing others to also become leaders and bring about a change. I cannot think of a way to answer the question about subordinates. That word indeed does have a negative connotation, but I am unable to suggest a reasonable replacement.

      • Jasmine Porter says:

        I agree with Grace and Jacob. I believe that a true leader looks at the entire situate as Follet said. A great leader that looks at the situation as a whole is sure to include their followers by influencing them to not be just successful but eventually be on the same level as the leader or better. A leader strives to push their followers to be nothing but the best.

  2. Shane Tolley says:

    I feel I should say that I was the one who asked this question. I see the term “subordinate” as a way of saying that a follower’s value is less than that of the leader. As we’ve discussed, followers are just as important as leaders because what is there to lead without followers? I believe the term “follower” is very sufficient. “Follower” doesn’t imply that the leader is (for lack of a better term) better than the people he/she leads. I might be the only one with this point of view, but when I hear “subordinate,” a word that comes to mind is “lackey,” and I don’t think that’s an appropriate description of a follower.

  3. Lauren Nance says:

    Like Jacob said, I really think this ties in with Mary Follett’s view of leadership. I loved her idea that the followers are just as important as the leaders. Followers are the ones that can give encouragement and motivation when times get frustrating for those in control. I went back and skimmed through the Kellerman reading about her and I found a sentence that made me think about the camera zooming in and out. “The leader then is one who can organize the experience if the group- whether it be the small group or the foreman, the larger group of the department, or the whole plant-…and thus get the whole power of the group.” I think this is important because it concentrates on the major and also the minor aspects of leadership that we need to pay attention to. It helps everyone stay focused on the common purpose.

  4. Daniel M says:

    As an amateur photographer, I agree with what you’ve said. I also agree with Jacob’s connection to Follett. Before I even think about taking a photo, I scout every inch of the area to fully understand what I’m working with. Then I’ll probably take 100 photos from various viewpoints to get different perspectives on the same subject. I try to capture the essence of the scene, so that a person who was just looking at the image could understand what I was trying to convey. It’s pretty tough and time consuming, but when all the pieces line up – all the players work together – the resulting piece is amazing.

  5. Jake Brown says:

    I agree with what you’ve said here. I have done some photography in the past and I find it is very important to understand the environment in which you are shooting. In trying to sum up this entirety of area in one picture, you dont want to miss anything important or focus too much on one specific thing. Finding the ‘happy medium’ can be quite the challenge in both photography and leadership.

  6. Esther Jeong says:

    I appreciate the analogy of leadership to photography or more so the different perspective photography has to offer, because it reiterates how leadership is not about the leader in any way shape or form but about the entire community as a whole. I see it this way because each person has a different outlook towards the common purpose whether or not the leader has provided a structured mission or an explicit vision. Each follower will naturally develop their own personal perspective and as a leader it is his/her job to combine all the perspectives together in a cohesive manner and move the team into a positive direction. That’s one thing I love about my major. My architecture professor prompts us with an outlandish task, each student interprets the prompt in a different way, executes it, presents it, and even though each project is completely different from the one next to it, the professor has provided enough direction during the project that it is a cohesive presentation of what he wanted from the first place.

    • Morgan Carson says:

      I like how Esther said that leadership “is not about the leader in any way shape or form, but about the entire community as a whole.” This is very true. Without followers, there would be no one to lead, and without leaders there would be no followers. The camera analogy truly demonstrates this. Without a camera, the views could not be shared, compared, or analyzed. It goes to further prove how leadership is not just one person taking charge, but many things that tie into a successful process.

  7. emmahdouglas says:

    I agree with the above posts about how this post relates to the writings of Mary Parker Follett. Follett focused quite a bit on how a successful leader evaluates the situation as a whole. In order to be a successful leader, a leader, much like a photographer, must focus on the whole situation; however, the leader also must find a way to realize the details of the situation as well. Leaders must find a middle-ground, or balance, in order to foster the best relationships and be the best leaders for the community.

  8. Will Coffey says:

    I like the comparison between photography and leadership. Everyone views situations through a unique lens. Each individual also has a unique style of leadership and understanding of what leadership is, as well as different vision of how they may reach a common goal. As stated above “the whole picture” statement by Follett is a great connection to this article. It displays how a good leader will both understand the whole situation, but be able to target specific details that they should focus on. Successful leaders are able to see through both lenses, and realize when it is most important to look through each.

  9. Ethan Brown says:

    I agree with all the above posts. I especially agree with Will in that leadership requires the ability to focus on certain aspects of a situation while also being able to shift and focus on the whole concept at a moments notice, or vice versa. This being said the analogy of leadership to photography is a wonderful one as a photographer must go through this same process of transitions to capture his/her desired end work.

  10. Kristen Fisher says:

    I agree with Will and Ethan that leadership isn’t just about the big picture, but the small details too (or opposite). The analogy makes it easier to understand a leadership and the process as a whole. It shows that leadership requires you to find that balance between the big idea and the small ones that sometimes are left out or vice versa.

  11. Thomas Nave says:

    This is such an interesting article, because it somehow relates photography and leadership in a way that we wouldn’t think possible. Leaders certainly must “Zoom-In” or target specific details, but at the same time they must keep their distance in order to have a broader view of the world around them. It is all about keeping that balance.

  12. Catherine (Cate) Beach says:

    As everyone else has shared, this definitely relates back to Follett and her idea that leaders can’t be leaders without followers. Followers are the body behind a goal and are who drive the actions. This article was neat in how it related photography to leadership and it makes complete sense. A leader needs to step back and look at the big picture, but also be able to zoom in at some points to focus on individuals or specific tasks that will relate to the big picture which is the common goal. The leader must have the view of what all is going on, from the small seemingly insignificant events to the main purpose.

  13. Katy Kelly says:

    I really like the relation of photography to leadership. I think a photographer is able to capture things in a way that no one else would look at them, and that’s what a leader needs to do. They have to take something complicated, and put it into perspective for their followers. They have to create that vision. A photographer can make you see something in a completely new way just like a leader can make you think about something in a completely new way.

  14. Courtney M says:

    Follett would be my quick reply to this article. But my answer to the question is “subordinates” are just students or up and coming leaders. We are all at one time followers, subordinates, or students, whatever you want to call it. We all are given the chance to learn about leadership at sometime in our life, lead alongside others, discover more about our own leadership styles and philosophies, and then eventually teach someone else. Follett talks about the importance of the follower in keeping the leader in control and the importance of the leader to grasp the total situation. Although I once thought that there was a specific situation that the leader had to grasp each time they were thrown a task, I have come to find the total situation is this cycle I just identified. It is the idea and “process” that the subordinates, are not “subordinate” they are students, followers, FUTURE LEADERS. So everything that a leader does to influence those people will bring us to today’s day and age and into the future.

  15. Lindsay DeMers says:

    As how nearly everyone stated, Follett was big on how a leader should see the whole situation; however, she also stressed the importance of leaders and followers learning from one another. Therefore, I think leaders and followers are interdependent. One should not be more esteemed than the other because without followers or a leader, change cannot occur. This is why I do not like the term subordinate; it makes followers sound like a less essential component in the equation for change.

  16. Cat Hauser says:

    I am not really an artistic person, nor do I understand the way photographers take pictures. I just always think the camera does the work and the person presses the button until it focuses. However, the one thing I do kind of understand in this analogy is the concept of the whole picture. I agree that leaders need to see the whole situation in order for them to be an effective leader. The main thing I have always agreed with since the first day of class, is that leaders are effected by their followers; followers can help the leader see things that usually they would not be able to see.

  17. Allyson True says:

    I agree with most the previous post. I think this article gives leadership a different idea, like I would never think to compare leadership to photography. I definitely agree with what Katy said above in that a leader has to put things into perspective. A leader is like a photographer in the way they shape their followers and the task at hand. A photographer can change the light, focus, subject, and even background to make something beautiful and make something that works. That is what leader need to do, too. They can shift their surroundings and their followers to make a functional group and complete a task.

  18. Abigail Bartolome says:

    I like this analogy because it expresses just how important the followers are. The leader knows what needs to be done, but sees the whole picture. He needs his followers to be tighter on all of the logistics to make sure that the final product is successful and make sure that everything can be done, and is done properly.

  19. kelsey edmonds says:

    I really enjoy this analogy between leadership and photography. Just like a leader, a photographer must know and be familiar with the scene he is shooting. He/she must zoom in on what is important but also make sure not to forget the minor details as well. Similarly, a leader must go into the situation knowing what their vision is but also be adaptable to change. In photography, their are always elements that are changing such as the weather and lighting. However, in order to capture a beautiful image in the end, they must work together with their followers and combine their ideas to be successful. Followers should not be considered “subordinates”. They are crucial to the final product and allow the leaders to see in a new and different way than they did before.

  20. David Bohn says:

    I like the comparison between leadership and photography too. Everyone views situations differently and it is important for a leader to shape the view their followers have of something at hand. The leader should set the tone for the group similar to how a photographer changes settings on a camera. Leaders should focus on specific things that enhances the common goal.

  21. Alexander Jones says:

    I am a fan of how we connect many things to leadership in our class, especially this one. Being quite artistic myself, I clearly understand what is being discussed here. I believe by giving more examples like this, it helps everyone in the class to come up with their own beliefs of leadership rather than all of us having the same views at the end of the semester (which I think is great!).

  22. Mariana Sa says:

    This makes me think of famous social movements in history and of how I felt when reading or watching movies about it. In these types of revolutions, specially the socialist and popular based ones, leaders and followers tend to treat each other as brothers, as part of the same community with the same goal. Thus, I believe that leadership can, and will eventually, reach a balance in what concerns to power/influence between leaders and followers and both these parts will be able to refer to each other as brothers/sister or something of this kind.

  23. Emily Hucks says:

    The title of this post just had me thinking about Mary Parker Follett’s “the whole picture.” In the whole picture everyone and everyone’s thoughts matter because they help shape the group and the actual picture. I also agree with Shane. We were discussing how our group felt that Northouse says that either you are a leader or you are nothing. Like he said “I see the term ‘subordinate; as a way of saying that a follower’s value is less than that of the leader.” Which isn’t true, just like Shane also stated, we would have no leader if we didn’t have followers

  24. Carly Scullin says:

    I enjoy this connection between leadership and photography. Like others said, one must understand the environment around them before taking a picture. This relates to leadership because a leader must understand what is going on around them and understand their followers. We also all look through a different “view finder” and it is important to understand that everyone sees a situations differently, and is experiencing something different in their life.

  25. Maggie D says:

    I like the metaphor that photographers are leaders. Leaders must focus on their followers special talents in order to bring out the best in them, much like a photographer discovering the right focus to create a strong picture. Also, a picture taken by a photographer can drastically change depending on the low or high quality lens. This relates to leadership because strong leaders have high “qualities” including traits, styles, and characteristics.

  26. Ryan Jenvey says:

    I think with that leadership requires the ability to focus on certain aspects of a situation while also being able to shift and focus on the whole concept at a moments notice. This being said the analogy of leadership to photography is a pretty interesting one one. One, because I like photography quite a bit but also because a photographer must go through the same process of transitions that a leader does to capture his desired work.

  27. Dixon Holland says:

    Leaders do try their best to listen and “zoom into” subordinates and try to answer all of their questions or concerns. They do not always get to the core problem that subordinates are facing, however. In these instances, leaders must put themselves into the shoes of their followers and make sure that they can relate to the follower, thus allowing the leader to solve the problem that the subordinate is facing.

  28. Crista Watson says:

    I think photography is a great idea to compare to leadership. Photos are so precise, detailed and can portray a world of meaning. Leadership is very much the same in several ways. Leadership is very different to every person and the way one leads can be opposite to someone else. However, there is no single right way to lead.

  29. Kyla Mauro says:

    I think this is very relatable to leadership. Leadership changes depending on the situation and environment. Everyone leads differently and there is no set in stone right way to lead. When a leader can put themselves in the place of their supports they will get a greater idea of what needs to be done to make whatever they are doing a greater success.

  30. Libby Howe says:

    This article, to me, very accurately described an issue within leadership that hasn’t been directly addressed. There is a very delicate balance between too focused and too “zoomed out”. Leaders need to be aware of the problems and the detail of the problem. The cause they are leading needs to be understood on a very deep level. However, the intricate effects of a cause must be understood too. This is where the “zoom out” comes in. No problem is black and white, no cause is cut and dry. There are always extenuating circumstances and outside influences that MUST be considered by the leader.

  31. Haley Ward says:

    This analogy between leadership and photography is a perfect example of how you can relate anything to leadership. I found it interesting with this particular analogy because its neat to think about the art of photography being related to subordinates and the relationship with the leaders. It’s true that leaders do act as the “lens” of a camera by focusing on what needs to be done and how to direct their followers. Also, every picture that is taken means something different to everyone, just as leadership means something different to every leader.

  32. Zack Snow says:

    I think that the relationship between the graduate student and the kids really sums up the leader-follower interactions which the post discusses. The student was the one in charge, the one telling the kids what to do. But she gave them the opportunity to go beyond just taking pictures. She empowered them to go the extra mile and they wanted to do that. A perfect example of effective democratic leadership.

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