There is always talk about leadership, leaders and all the important skills they need. We spend billions of dollars developing, training, teaching, coaching, grooming our leaders. And we encourage our young people to practice their leadership skills and to seek out leadership opportunities. And be sure to put all that stuff on your resume!
Well, if we do the math – we have lots of leaders, but who’s following them? Look behind them – who’s there? Where are all the followers? And what kind of training are they getting? All these leadership courses, classes, books, webinars, secrets, tips, strategies, but where is all the training for the followers? Who’s taking care of them?
And if I asked how many of you have taken leadership courses, most would proudly raise their hands. But how many of you have taken followship courses? No? None? Why not?
We need to realize that we all need to follow sometimes. And if we all knew how to follow graciously and gracefully, things would be much easier, better, more productive and successful for everyone – for organizations, for teams, for causes and for the leaders!
What should a follower do? Here are 7 important things:
#1: Cooperate Ever have the thought? “Could you just work with me?” So let’s stop elbow-bumping and work together.
#2: Collaborate In fact, don’t just “work with me”, work with us. Let’s collaborate as a team, as a group of followers /leaders / people who have a common purpose.
#3: Communicate Let’s be sure to communicate – it’s a two way street. Please share all good ideas and feedback – it will help everyone succeed. Don’t keep a secret arsenal of success tips just because someone else is leading the pack!
#4: Coach If something is going awry, or the leader could be doing things a little differently, let him/her know. Chances are he / she will welcome the good advice – please share to help everyone succeed.
#5: Care This is isn’t about you. This is about the cause, the people, the organization, the purpose, the mission. Some of the most influential people / leaders in the world were not in the “lead” position. But they cared and they influenced and they made progress and changes that were astounding. Think Mother Teresa.
#6: Credibility If we are lucky enough to earn someone’s trust – that gives us credibility and ultimately the ability to influence. And leadership, change and progress are about influence. One does not need a title to influence. And we influence people when we have credibility, not a title.
#7: Courage – To put your ego aside It takes courage and humility to let someone else take the lead, and to perhaps also take the credit. But so often, it can be the follower who has truly influenced. If it’s about getting the credit – by all means – get up on the stage and be known. But if it’s about making a difference, advancing a cause, influencing change – that takes real courage – to walk alongside, or if necessary – to walk behind. And I’ll suggest that is what true leadership really is.