If I said, “You are a great follower!” would you be insulted?
If you said the same to me, my first reaction would be offense.
I don’t want to be a follower! I’m a leader! I’m not a mindless mass without wisdom and knowledge and gumption! I’m special, unique!
I AM NOT A FOLLOWER.
But “follower” doesn’t make you a mindless minion. In fact, being a good follower in this age of entitled know-it-alls, of talking heads and news show yappers, might make you a more attractive leader.
Why would I say such a thing?
I’m reading a book about leadership development and one chapter addresses following. The author couches the information from a leader’s perspective – such as what can you, as a leader, do to make your follower productive, satisfied, and loyal?
But in reading this chapter it occurred to me more should be written about the value of a follower in recognition that following is an important skill that if not acquired, will hinder anyone from long term success.
Think about it –
- How do many people learn wisdom from leaders? By following the leader until they’ve proven themselves interested.
- Who do leaders enjoy spending time with? Their trusted followers, because they’re pulling in the same direction toward a common goal.
- What is one of the most exasperating things to a leader? An unteachable follower who goes renegade because they’re determined they know more than anyone else.
These thoughts make me want to intentionally practice to be a better follower. To me that means:
- Trusting. Instead of doubting a leadership decision, armchair coaching, or being a Debbie Downer, I want to learn to trust the judgment of the leaders around me. Genuine trust of an honorable person places a burden of responsibility on that leader to live up to the trust they’ve earned.
- Supporting. Too many times I contribute to the common good of a group out of social obligation or with hopes of later recognition. That’s not helpful! I want to support others because that in itself is a worthwhile reward.
- Playing. When someone else is navigating the course I have the freedom to play and enjoy the journey without prepping for the next change. That, in turn, makes me much more fun to be around.
- Loyalty. I want to be a loyal person. Our culture is not supportive of a steadfast spirit. We are always looking for new and better, speed and energy But I want to be a part of an admirable tradition and someone others can depend upon to be consistent.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that being a follower is an unrecognized skill that we should all master.
What other skills make people excellent followers?