The relationship between leaders and followers seems pretty straightforward: Leaders lead. Followers follow.
But Barbara Kellerman, a leadership lecturer at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government author of Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, says that significant shifts in technology and culture have changed that dynamic, giving followers more power. And there’s a lot you can learn about being a good leader by learning to be a good follower.
“[Good followers] support and aid the leader when he or she is doing the right thing, and stand up to the leader–having the courage to let the leader know when he or she is doing something wrong or headed in the wrong direction,” says Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., associate dean of the faculty at the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.
Being a good follower doesn’t make you a “sheep,” Kellerman says. The truth is that most of us are in followership roles regularly, perhaps in our families, social circles, religions, or other settings. Here are five skills you learn as a good follower that make you a better leader.
Today, leaders need to be aware of various audiences including colleagues, coworkers, customers, board members, and the public at large. As a leader, you need to be aware of what it takes to “bring them along.”
Being a follower teaches you how to be aware of the needs of other people as well as their potential to “make my life hell from one second to the next,” she says. Good followers learn to read people and understand what upsets and motivates them.
When good followers encounter a co-worker with rabid political beliefs or a disagreeable manager, they’re probably not going to fight every battle, Kellerman says. Playing the part of the follower is easier, simpler, and often less risky.
Good followers learn how to get along with those who have differences while not ignoring those differences. That’s an important leadership trait, too, because a leader or manager can’t afford to be oblivious to the attitudes of those around him or her, Kellerman says.
Being a good follower means having the courage to dissent if you think your leader, manager, or superior, is doing something wrong-headed, Kellerman says. That’s not always easy, but it requires the guts and strength of conviction that are essential to good leadership, Kellerman says.
“Being a good follower is complicated in ways that are rather similar to being a good leader. It means being engaged. It means paying attention. It means having the courage to speak up when something’s wrong and it means having the energy and activism to support a leader or manager who’s doing things wisely and well,” she says.
In many ways, followers can “make or break” the leader influencing if and how goals are accomplished, Riggio says. In many business sectors, followers are the ones who are doing much of the creative work, although the leader may get most of the credit. Leaders who have been good followers understand how to work with people to bring out the best in them.
“Did Steve Jobs really create the iPod and iPhone, or was it the creative collective of team members at Apple? Today, leaders may be evaluated not only by how much is produced or achieved, but by the quality of the team or organization and its members,” he says.
In order to be a good follower, you need to be able to think for yourself. Riggio says the best followers support and aid the leader when he or she is doing the right thing, and stand up to the leader when he or she is headed in the wrong direction.
“Many of the same qualities that we admire in leaders–competence, motivation, intelligence–are the same qualities that we want in the very best followers. Moreover, leaders, regardless of their level, also need to follow,” he says.
Leadership And Followership Essay
One of the most important components of leadership is the leader. A leader is responsible for his or her followers and the overall goal of the group or organization. Leaders are the people held accountable or everything that happens, good or bad. On the other hand, the second major component of leadership is the followers. Without followers, a leader would be worthless. Followers make up the backbone of a leader because they are the masses that get goals accomplished. A leader is just one person, but the number of followers is countless. In order to be an effective follower, there are a countless number of characteristics that allow a follower to be the best they can be. Five of these characteristics include a positive attitude, communication skills, being part of the process, being open to new ideas, and patience.
The first characteristic, a positive attitude, is important because having the ability and enjoyment of working with other people in a team is a useful skill. A sincere liking and respect for other people is a wonderful asset. Being well liked will certainly help in working in teams or any other social situation. Humor and warmth are effective in order to be a good team member. A follower who focuses on positive thoughts by filtering out negative ones is on the trail of leadership. President Dwight D. Eisenhower often said, “No pessimist ever won a battle.” People who have a positive outlook on both life and specific situations tend to achieve their goals more often. The choice and determination to maintain an event-tempered disposition come what may; hence the ability to smile in the face of adversity and make things a little brighter for everyone.
Communication skills are the second characteristic that helps make followers effective. A follower must be able to understand and communicate with the leader and other team members. An effective leader must have a large amount of feedback. It is a follower’s responsibility to provide information to the leader and let the leader know what is working and what is not. Giving the leader the correct information is important because that information helps the leader decide which decisions to make. All of these tasks must be done in what is an acceptable manner for the leader and that group or organization. It is hard to tell someone that his or her tactics are not working without offending him or her. Very few people including leaders can accept criticism gracefully. The best solution to this problem varies from one group to another. 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....
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