I was thinking about what it takes to be a good follower. Kind of a contrary thought, isn’t it? Because, anyway you slice the pie, leadership gets the most press.
The leader, is the out front guy, who takes the flack or receives the praises. As we all know, the leadership proficiency meter can go from bad to great with many stages and steps along the way. Is it completely out of vogue to be a good follower?
Great leaders are not hatched from a egg fully developed. They all start out as good followers. Timing or circumstances are the usual catalyst for turning a follower into a leader. If a follower hasn’t learned from the feet of the master, how can they become an exceptional leader?
Someone who has been in the following of a leader are, themselves, setting an example. If they haven’t been coach-able, helpful, or taken direction well, the example they have set will be a poor one. Others will follow that example. When they advance to the leadership position, their reign will be fraught with the issues in their followers, they, themselves, were an example of. In other words, what goes around, comes around.
Some people, in a leadership position, wants to keep all the knowledge of how to lead people to themselves. They may feel insecure in sharing the knowledge. What if their followers won’t want to follow them? Or, the follower might take their job if they understand what it takes to lead.
This kind of thinking is a grave error in judgment. The only leaders who can stand the test of time are those who create leaders from their followers.
A sign of a strong, confident leader is to realize or believe the cause they are fighting or working for is larger than themselves. If they are to truly succeed on a monumental level, they have to train their followers to become a leader, and to develop other leaders. A leadership factory, so to speak.
If this isn’t done, a good causes can fail. Crumbled at the very core by a lack of leadership to continue after the initial leader has gone.
There is value in being a good follower. Obviously, we can’t all be the leader at the same time. It is an excellent training ground to learn to lead. A good follower is the backbone and strength of any group.
As the old saying goes, a team is only as strong as its weakest link. If we understand and believe this concept, wouldn’t it be wise to be the best follower possible?
By Elizabeth Fane