There can’t be any leaders if there are no followers and each leader must lead at least one person, usually many. I’m doing the math and figure there are more followers out there than leaders, yet an Amazon search brings up over 100,000 results for “leadership” versus 236 for “followership.” Seems like it should be the other way around.
In any event, we are followers even if we’re also leaders. Most of us are leading in some ways, following in others. These are roles, after all, not permanent titles affixed to us regardless of circumstance. And most of the time we’re followers, not leaders (again, simply doing the math…).
Given this, how many of us have spent time thinking about how we can be better followers? Observing the scant number of books on the topic, my guess is just a few.
So how can we be better followers?
- Listen We’ve got to hear what our leaders are saying if we’re going to effectively follow. Knowing what our leaders need is found in the words they say. We must hear them.
- Trust Our leader has been put in place because of his or her expertise, experience, and understanding of the organization. Trust that he or she knows what’s going on and has put thought into decisions made. If a decision doesn’t make sense, there may be something you don’t know that he or she does. Believe they have good intentions.
- Manage Up Fill your leader in on what you are doing. Don’t withhold information. Be honest when you encounter roadblocks. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t surprise them at the last minute with bad news. Share good news, too.
- Follow First Get on board with ideas and changes quickly. Be an advocate for what needs to be done. Don’t drag your feet and push back on inevitable change. Watch First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy. “The first follower transforms the lone nut into a leader.”
Ultimately, what each of us can do best as followers is to follow the lead of the leader. The leader will tell us how we can best follow if we listen, trust, and follow.