5 Good Reasons Why You Need to Follow Before You Can Lead
Taking the Steps to Make Yourself a Better Follower May Hasten Your Path to a Leadership Position
The concept of followership has an invaluable role in the success of any group dynamic. However, this is often underplayed. This tendency reflects modern culture’s emphasis on leadership and its tendency to overlook the less glamorous but vital role of followership.
While great leaders are celebrated the world over, it is the follower that truly makes the definitive difference between a lost explorer and a trailblazing pioneer. The points presented below offer insight to what makes a good follower and, ultimately, a good leader.
1. A Follower Exercises His Judgement Regularly
While the term ‘followership’ may conjure an image of passive obedience in our minds, good followers are more driven by independent thought than most would give them credit for.
Responsible followers have an overarching obligation to their company or organisation to only obey instructions when they are ethical and proper. As such, it is important for followers to constantly practice their sense of judgment, differentiating between an instruction that they do not agree with and one that is truly wrong.
Just as few would dispute that good judgment is critical to being a good leader, this quality is just as important in a good follower.
2. A Good Follower Is an Invaluable Member of the Team
In addition to exercising personal judgment, followers must develop the habit of acting on their instincts. A good follower applies constructive critical thinking and interacts openly with the rest of the team and his manager.
If they agree with the instructions handed down, they must back the manager 100%. If they disagree, good followers must challenge the leader’s instructions, offering viable alternatives in order to help the organisation achieve its objectives.
This proactive participation, rooted in a personal code of morals, elevates the follower from being another cog in the machine to becoming an invaluable sounding board for management and the rest of the team.
3. A Good Follower Retains Critical Thought and Abstains From Groupthink
In line with the preceding point, good followers must be aware of the perils of groupthink. Created by social psychologist Irving L. Janis in 1972, the term groupthink refers to a psychological phenomenon in which people strive for consensus within a group, setting aside their personal beliefs to adopt the opinion held by the rest of the group.
In most cases, people end up engaging in groupthink when they fear that their objections might disrupt the harmony of the group or cause other members to reject them. Groupthink is often seen in workplace situations, where agreeing with the opinion of a superior is deemed more acceptable than offering an alternate perspective.
A good follower possesses a high level of independent thinking rooted in personal experience, as well as a high level of energy that motivates them to express themselves actively and work on making the best decisions as a group.
4. Good Followers Are Good Workers
In order to fulfil the above tasks and deliver on their tasks conscientiously, good followers are diligent, motivated, committed, pay attention to detail, and make the effort to go beyond the call of duty. Managers and leaders of the organisation have a responsibility to foster an environment that encourages these qualities, but it is ultimately the follower’s responsibility to be an actively contributing member of the team.
The qualities of a good follower mentioned above are synonymous with employees with a good work ethic, which is a beneficial trait to possess in a work setting.
5. Good Followers Display The Traits Of Good Leaders
How does being a good follower set you up to be a good leader? When followers transition to a position of leadership, they know the answers to “Why would anyone want to follow me?”.
Leaders with a strong “followership” track record display these attributes:
Leaders with foundations as followers have the tendency to be transparent with their teams. To motivate and drive their teams to greater heights, these leaders share their challenges, obstacles, and larger goals with the team, encouraging a sense of shared ownership in the process. In turn, their team regards them as trustworthy and dependable, worthy of their commitment and best efforts.
Leaders with a strong followership track record have the ability and experience to remain calm in the face of panic, and imbue those around them with a sense of confidence.
Having been in the position of a follower before, these leaders have unrelenting passion for people and show active empathy when their followers are enduring hard times.
Rising through the ranks, leaders have an unwavering belief and faith that their product or cause will not only succeed, but result in a greater good for the team and society as a whole.
The reasons listed above demonstrate why you should strive to be a better follower before taking on a position of leadership, equipping yourself with a strong skill-set to handle the new challenges that may lie ahead.
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