“He who cannot be a good follower, cannot be a good leader.” While this ancient saying by Aristotle is often quoted, it remains a rarely followed principle. At every point in life, the focus is always on the leader, be it a school captain, a group leader or someone leading a project at work. It is always considered to be far more rewarding to be a good leader than being a good follower.
Leadership is often confused with absolute power and authority, which means that a leader is expected to have all the right answers and make all the right decisions all the time. It, in turn, creates a lot of pressure, often self-created. It is important to understand that in today’s highly dynamic work environment, there cannot be just one leader with all the power and authority. It is important to switch roles, collaborate and build on each other’s inputs in a team to come out with the best outcome. This requires what is often called a ‘follower’s mindset’. It involves good listening skills, a sense to reserve judgement and listening more than talking. These are qualities that make a good leader as well as a good follower.
Often people are asked to demonstrate the qualities of a good leader with exceptionalism. However, good leaders are the ones who have the ability to engage followers and be one of them. The key to success in leadership lies in collaboration and not individualism. An effective leader demonstrates a feeling of oneness with the group. Instead of standing out from the group, leaders need to emerge from the group, as someone who is working towards a common goal.
Similarly, it is also a redundant concept that followers are supposed to execute instructions blindly. In an increasingly democratized workplace, they make sensible choices and are more empowered than ever. Without their execution, even the brightest ideas can fall flat. They follow the ideas and the vision of a good leader and not necessarily the leader as a heroic figure.
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Good followers understand a leader’s vision and find a way to execute it effectively. However, when they see them making an error of judgment, they also have the sense to point it out fearlessly. They understand that the team’s goal and well-being are bigger than any individual and have the ability to assess an idea for its merit. Followers have this great quality of putting their team first, which incidentally is also the quality of a good leader. They know that they are as good as the team. This is why good followers make good leaders.
Everybody is a follower in some areas of life and sometimes these skills picked up as a follower can help them imbibe great leadership qualities. Good followers are perpetual learners. They learn from a leader and even when they move on to leadership roles, they find something bigger to follow. Even as leaders, they don’t cease to be followers so that they can keep learning and growing.
Followership, like leadership, is a skill which comes with good judgment, work ethics and honesty. Sometimes, a good leader should be able to assess the situation, take a step back, demonstrate a follower’s mindset and just listen more, trust more and follow. The ability to swing between leading and following to achieve best results is what makes a good leader.
- Why following will make you a better leader!- Rashmi Sharma, 21 December, 2018
- 5 Ways Being A Good Follower Makes You A Better Leader- Gwen Moran, 30 April, 2014
- Research: To be a Good Leader start by being a good follower- Kim Peters and Alex Haslam, 06 August, 2018
- A good leader is also a good follower’- Ananya Revanna, 30 September, 2016
- You’re a future leader if you do these 4 things as a follower- Victor Ng, 01 July, 2017
- Where are the good followers?- Prince Frederick,27 November, 2016