What Kind Of Follower Are You?
This blog is about the art of leadership, and as I have said on several occasions, is aimed at the leader, the aspiring leader, and those who are led. Many of the topics I have covered thus far focus in on the perspective of those first two groups. The last group, the led, are known by another name:
Followership is not out of place in a leadership blog. Unless you are the CEO, or President, or whatever the title, you are led by someone. Even the boss has someone or something to which they are responsible. The foundation for this blog has always been oriented toward public service, which brings with it a chain of command, a hierarchy, and a org chart. From that expectation, let us assume, before we go farther, that you exist within that hierarchy at a certain level, and you wish to move to the next level at some point in your career.
A very good indicator of how successful or effective you might be in that
new role is going to depend significantly on what kind of follower you have been. There are two directions to view the quality of your followership.
First, you are attempting to join a new team of peers. You’ll converse about things from a different perspective, and perhaps be part of decision-making for the organization in a way you were not before. Consider for a moment how you ask this potential new team of peers for acceptance. As a follower, did YOU respect this team? Were you someone who accepted their decisions and made your best effort to make the decision an effective one? Or, were you someone who second-guessed, undermined, or consistently made every attempt to have your leadership fail? Or perhaps as worrisome, were you invested in the success of your future potential new peers at all or
were you ambivalent as to the outcomes for which they were looking?
Next, consider your answer to the question from the perspective of your current
peers. Are you someone who supported the organization’s leadership with
your co-workers? Do they know you as a positive person who trusted management
decisions and was committed to positive and desired outcomes? Or, do they
know you as the nay-sayer, who mistrusted every supervisor, undermined or questioned every direction the team took, or projected a lack of confidence in all
If it is your goal to be a leader, at some point you will need to confront
how well you have been a follower. Along with some of the other messages I
have discussed, such as baggage, and perception, you should be prepared to
discuss and if necessary defend how well you have followed the team you
think you are ready to join. This perspective is one that often escapes
the aspiring organizational leader because it hides in the background of
other people’s perceptions. It is natural to deny it, or ignore it, but
you can rest assured, when the time comes for you to walk into that room,
look your potential teammates in the eye and make your case as to why you
should be there, it is sitting there beside you.
How can I be a good follower? Consider some of these traits and behaviors: Good followers commit to, and finish, the tasks they are given. They anticipate what needs to be done next and seize the initiative. They praise in public and criticize in private. They can be trusted to lead themselves. They offer solutions, not problems, they make their leaders better and they are models of the vision that the leaders have for the team. They love that vision and become a contagious advocate for it.