Every leadership class should begin with a review of followership principles. Most of us don’t instantly become leaders and through the years develop bad habits that make us ineffective followers. As a leader, we depend on followers to substantiate our position and in some ways are at the mercy of the very people we supervise. Failure to recognize this fact can lead to false perceptions of power.
What does it mean to be a good follower? To evaluate the answer to that question, it is necessary to review the traits of being a follower.
Loyalty—This implies commitment not only to the leader and the leader’s vision but also to the principles of sound leadership.
Understanding—The ability to articulate and integrate into one’s daily life the vision and principles espoused by one’s leader.
Candor—The courage to speak one’s mind clearly, succinctly, and authentically to one’s leader and fellow followers but gracefully and in private.
Listening—This demands attention and care and must be coupled with observing the subtle nuances of a leader’s speech and behavior if maximum clarity of understanding is to be achieved.
Predictability—Being accountable for one’s own behavior in such a way that one’s leader knows who can be counted on when the need arises.
Creativity—Having a beginner’s mind that allows one to discover or help discover novel solutions to the problems of leadership as they arise.
Effectiveness—Getting things done in a manner that helps accomplish the intent of the action.
Efficiency—Getting things done in the most expedient and cost-effective manner without compromising either the quality or principles of sound leadership.
Insightfulness—The ability to ask relevant, probing questions and foster innovative ways of seeing and thinking about ordinary things; the ability to advance new perspectives, which set the tenor of the success that follows.
Integrity—Allows a leader to know a person can be trusted to accurately represent the leader’s vision and/or principles with the highest standards of integrity.
Persistence—The tenacity to attack a problem with gusto and stay with it until it is either solved or all conceivable possibilities have been exhausted.
Practicality—Being grounded enough to face a problem head on and come up with thoughtful, positive suggestions about how to resolve it, even when the possibility of success seems bleak.
Communicative—The personal commitment to keep one’s leader abreast of important developments before they come as surprising news from others who might put the leader in the awkward position of having to play catch-up from a position of disadvantage.
Complementary—The willingness to lend a hand in such a way that one’s thoughts and actions complement–rather than compete with–those of one’s leader in achieving a particular end.
Cheerfulness—The choice and determination to maintain an even-tempered disposition come what may; hence the ability to smile in the face of adversity and make things a little brighter for everyone.
Next time you think you are having problems with those under you, or better yet, looking to be proactive in your approach to eliminating problems, it is best to look at the example you are setting. Embodying the traits of a good follower often lead to developing the traits needed to be a good leader.