Most people have it wrong. They think leadership is about being in charge, being in a position of authority, being the boss, and calling the shots. It makes them feel important and powerful. They had a goal, worked hard, and achieved something by being selected for a leadership position. They climbed the corporate ladder and finally made it to the top. Many people think, “Now that I am in the big seat, we’re going to do it my way.” The problem with that mindset is it is all about them. The reality is it is not about the leader. It is about everyone else surrounding the leader and you cannot be a revered leader without first being a highly effective follower.
Instead of aspiring to be a leader, focus on being a good follower. Set your sights on mastering the art of knowing when to lead and when to follow, not “being” a leader. No one is the leader in every situation. Lead by setting a vision, guiding, directing, and supporting others so they are successful at accomplishing the mission. Then get out of the way and let the experts lead the execution. Your job as a leader is to serve others by motivating them, giving them opportunities to grow, and setting them up for success. Set the example by being a follower first. When that happens, people will trust you, and in return, follow you anywhere.
How to be a Loyal Follower
Being an excellent follower that is in a leadership role is not easy. It takes awareness and self-control to clearly understand situations correctly, know when to lead, and when to let others take the reins. You naturally gravitate to wanting to take charge and make decisions, but many times, there are other people around you that are best suited for the task at hand. Below are the Top-5 ways you can be an inspiring follower:
Listen – being a great follower means listening more than you speak. Truly listening to others allows you to fully understand a situation. It makes people feel valued and important. When you listen, people will see you care and will perform at their best.
Empower – people want/need to be inspired. Motivate them. Put them in the spotlight. Challenge them out of their comfort zone. Give them responsibilities that will allow them to lead and accomplish something bigger than themselves. Your job is to guide, encourage, and keep them on track so they look good by accomplishing the objectives.
Resource – the people around you are experts. They are the best at doing whatever they do. All they need is tools, systems, processes, training, funding, etc, that will allow them to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Find ways to simply problems and put resources in their hands so they can continuously deliver excellence.
Solve – life rewards action and results. Help by removing obstacles so employees can be as effective and efficient as possible. Ask them, “What are the Top-3 frustrations you are facing, that if I could remove them, would make the biggest impact on the organization.” Serve them by flexing your leadership muscles in areas where they may not be able to and make other people’s job easier.
Follow Up – the worst thing you can do as a leader/follower is to “fire and forget.” People need accountability. They need leaders that care enough to follow up on tasks, projects, etc, they are responsible for. People get lost in the weeds sometimes. They get confused, face unforeseen challenges, and need to be reminded of the bigger picture. Always follow up and support throughout the process until they achieve the goals. Remember, we are all measured in life, not by how many things we do, but by how many things we actually complete. Make people RESULTS CHAMPIONS and they will always WIN!
Being a follower is about serving others. As the leadership author, John Maxwell stated, “People don’t care about you and what you know, until they know how much you care about them.” Be curious, ask questions, and pay attention to people and their surroundings. Notice when things are going well and when they are not. Always be engaged and find ways to remove barriers, open doors, and help people overcome challenges. Finally, give all the credit for successes to others. Recognize people for their hard work, sacrifices, and extra efforts involved in achieving greatness. When you are approachable, listen, and follow the advice of others, you in turn, will be admired as someone worthy of being followed.