Many of us are familiar with the traits required to be a successful leader – dedication, strong communication skills, ability to delegate tasks etc. However, it would be safe to assume the majority are unaware of the traits that make a good follower.
The word follower is notoriously associated with negative connotations. There is hardly anything ‘good’ about being a follower, right? We as a society for one, are much more inclined to view followers as sheep, as opposed to valued, hardworking and intelligent groups of individuals. Who would want to be told what to do, with seemingly little power over their decisions? Being in such a position hardly sounds like a recipe for a successful future.
Not only are most people unaware of the traits that make a good follower, they aren’t aware that they are near identical to those that make a good leader. Arguably, you cannot lead effectively if you do not possess the skills of both leaders and followers alike.
We have come to know the terms leading and following, as being separated by a ‘versus’. However, these terms and what they stand for aren’t mutually exclusive, there is no competition, and it would be wrong to assume you can have one without the other. Being a follower, especially in business, is seen as a means to an end, a hurdle on the way to success. What many fail to understand is that it’s an extremely valuable learning experience and a chance to develop vital skills.
Despite what you may have been taught, one of these positions is not intrinsically better than the other. It’s what you make of each position that makes it count. Therefore, being a good follower is something you should want to strive towards.
After all that’s been said, don’t get it twisted. The objective isn’t to be a good follower so you can lead. There is merit in being a ‘follower’ and the position should be as equally celebrated as any other.
Here are some ways to ensure you’re being the best follower you can possibly be:
- Take Initiative
A good follower is not waiting around to be told what to do, or waiting for problems to arise before they solve them. They are proactive, they are thinking ahead. They are putting out fires before they are lit because they are actively participating. They take an active role in all tasks and projects. They’re ensuring they are constantly up to date with the progress of the team, and are well versed on the ins and outs of the current situation. They are efficient, effective and result driven.
Not only do they take initiative, they ensure that when they do so they are carrying out the task to completion. Being accountable is extremely important if you want to be taken seriously as a follower, and great leaders would agree. There is no point being a step ahead if at any given moment you could fall behind due to a lack of follow-through.
- Speak Your Mind
A good follower has valuable contributions to team objectives and future goals. They aren’t afraid to ask questions and speak up if need be. This trait is usually accompanied by, or can further enhance one’s communication skills. It’s vital that a good follower has a firm grasp on the situation at hand and is ready to speak what others may be afraid to in order to get the job done.
That being said, they are loyal. Whilst they can criticise, they never do so with the intention of besmirching their leader or other team members. They not only understand the importance of maintaining a collective harmony, but they fully comprehend that loyalty is a trait of both great leaders and followers alike.
- Be a Team Player
The best followers understand the benefit of collectively working together towards a goal. They fully embrace the given dynamic and are fuelled by the knowledge that each individual has a common objective. They are happy to take on tasks that are not necessarily ‘their job’ as they understand that ultimately their participation will only aid to further benefit the potential outcome.
They also have a clear understanding of their role. They understand and fully embrace the notion that they are being lead, and do not resent this fact. They accept the terms and strive to work to be the best contributor. They are careful not to overstep their boundaries and know when to pull back and let others take the reigns for a while. They are ultimately humble, and only want the best for everyone on the team, including the leader. They do what they can to ensure they are not undermining the work of those around them, or taking up too much of the spotlight.
- Be Helpful & Supportive
Whether it be helping the leader lead, or taking on the position of pseudo leader when encountered with poor leadership – good followers are always looking to ensure the team has direction and that it is being followed. They make it a priority to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and no single person is at an unfair disadvantage. They are a source of crucial support to the leader, by carrying out what is asked. They are flexible and compassionate and serve as a buoy for the team’s ideas, goals and objectives.