Everything rises and falls on leadership – EVERYTHING… schools, businesses, churches, hospitals, nations and homes. Leaders are the architects of the future. However, before we can create the future, there’s a significant hurdle all aspiring leaders must clear.
Followship – yes, followship. Being a good follower is a prerequisite to leading well.
Followship matters because it tests our motives. Are we really striving to serve? If so, we’ll serve in any capacity we can. If we’re asked to serve through leadership, we will. If we’re asked to serve as a follower, we will. Besides, most of us will always be under someone else’s authority and leadership. Even if we’re the CEO, we are still accountable to the board. I don’t know many successful, unaccountable leaders.
How can we be better followers?
Work diligently to make your leader successful. How many times have you thought about this? This can take many forms, including challenge and feedback. Certainly we need to do the things we’re asked to do, but where can you demonstrate initiative that will benefit your leader?
Give 100% when executing their directives. Sometimes you will not agree with the decisions and directives your leader makes. That’s okay. Your role is not to agree but to execute… with excellence. Half-hearted execution will sabatogue your leadership more than it will impede your leader’s decision. Your followers are watching too.
Acknowledge their unique perspective. Accept the fact your leader has a different vantage point than you. Perhaps this is because of their experience, maybe it’s because of the meetings they attend, or their relationships with other leaders you don’t associate with. This will be particularly useful when you disagree – it may explain why.
Refuse to talk bad about them. I don’t know why people seem to want to talk bad about leaders. Maybe it’s because people aren’t always happy with their leaders. I wrote about this from a leader’s point-of-view in a post entitled The Happy Trap. Regardless of why this trash talking phenomena exists, don’t do it. It will lower your standing in the eyes of others.
Do the work they don’t like to do. This may sound bizarre to you, but if you stop and think about it, it makes sense. I received this advice from Jimmy Collins, former President of Chick-fil-A. He has a book coming out in the fall entitled Creative Followership. I haven’t read it, but I know it will be a winner. The idea, simply stated, is to identify the activities your leader would rather have someone else do and find a way to make it happen. Brilliant.
Assume the best about them and their decisions. When you and I work with anyone, we get to make a fundamental choice: Do we believe their motives are pure or self-serving? Is their heart right or not? The way we answer will taint our actions. If we want to be better followers, assume the best where your leader is concerned. It will change your behavior.
Encourage them often. Do you work in an environment known for encouragement? Most people don’t. Even if encouragement is part of the culture, it is often the leaders doing the encouraging. Who encourages the leaders? Usually, no one. Genuine, appropriate appreciation and encouragement will set you apart as a follower.
If we can’t learn to submit to authority, we’ll have a hard time earning the trust and respect of those we wish to lead. To lead well, we must follow well.
Always lead… always follow!
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