Better Followership

Without effective followers no leader will get anything of consequence completed. The key is that followership shouldn’t be tied to hierarchy any more than leadership is. Regardless of who’s leading on any given day, others of us will need to follow. Just as frontline staff will be better off for learning to lead, so, too, will I and others at “the top” be better off when we’re learning to be good followers, getting on board and supporting constructive initiatives being led by others in the organization. What’s different in this model is that each of us can lead and each can follow, and we all need to be good at both roles; it’s not always easy, but I think it’s ultimately and infinitely more effective.

As Roadhouse hostess Fionna Gault reminded me, good following is fed by, follows from, and leads to, good leadership. “Being a good leader and a good follower are pretty darn close to the same thing,” she said. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think she’s right. I’m going to follow her lead and include her comments here. “I might even say that being a good follower is being a good leader in a way. When you decide to follow someone, to support someone’s idea or initiative, you are helping them reach their full potential. Great leaders create leaders, right? Well, the main thing a new leader needs is followers, so by becoming a follower, you can lead someone to success. Deciding to follow means making a decision about the direction you want to see things go in and taking action to make it happen, even if it is under someone else’s direction.”

Excerpt from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Part 2: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader

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