Leaders and Followers

Why it's good to follow

Walt Disney - Peter Pan

Search the web and you will find approximately 117,000000 results when you type in the word Leadership and a staggering 735,000000 for Management (managers are leaders).  Endless sites talk about the  qualities, the styles, the traits and the training required to become a leader.  Our culture applauds and worships Leaders - we are in love with the concept of the individual marching out ahead with rugged individualism.  We swell with pride when a teacher tells us that our child is a “born leader’.

Most workplaces have a degree of hierarchy.  However we hear of organisations with “too many chiefs and not enough indians” or about structures being “top heavy”.  How effective can an organisation full of leaders be?  Yes, companies need great inspirational  leaders but they need great followers too.  We need to promote that following is good, - it is not some zombie type role allowing no freedom of thought or behaviour. Almost every leader in one way or the other owes his/her success to their followers. Without their help no leader can achieve success. So what makes a good follower?

 The following definition draws on the thoughts of Kelley, author of ‘The Power of Followship’ on the role of the follower:

A follower is one who strives to follow a course of action in common with a leader to achieve organisational goals. Effective followers make an active and conscious decision to contribute towards the achievement of the goal and demonstrate enthusiasm, energy, personal responsibility, emotional connection with themselves and others, along with the ability to work with and trust others in pursuit of the goals. Effective followers  consider all issues on their merits, make their own decisions, hold their own values, speak up and hold themselves accountable for the consequences for their actions.

So followers are not sheep even if their behaviour sometimes implies that they are simply following orders and doing what they’re told.  The results of their actions come from independent thought, clear decision making and mental focus and would have been the same without direction from the leader.  In other words, effective followers, given correct, necessary and timely information and control, can be trusted to take action to complete specific objectives, subject to ongoing support.
The attributes of effective followers are the attributes of resilient people.  These traits are: being proactive, self aware, taking personal responsibility, being focused and being passionate and energised about what they want from their lives and work.  All of these attributes and behaviours can be enhanced in individuals and teams and many organisations now realise the importance of delivering training in these traits not just to leaders but to the followers too.


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