We hear a lot about developing leaders, but how often do you hear about developing followers? I believe a great leader was once a great follower. It’s important for all leaders to understand the perspective of their followers. If we want our teams to be successful not everyone can be a leader. Teams require followers. We all can be great followers. What does being a great follower mean? It means being the best you can, doing the best you can and knowing all you can while pursuing a task or a goal with a team. There are many characteristics, skills and abilities of followers. The list below is not the end all be all to great followership, but it is a great start. If you would like to contribute to this list, please let me know.
Communicate – Talk with your teammates, not at them. Listen to understand and not to debate. Be open to hearing ideas and have courage to give ideas. Provide feedback appropriately and in the right environment. Communicate up, down, left and right. There is a time to absorb information and a time to ask questions. Ensure you execute each of these clear and concise. Keep the lines of communication open. If an issue comes up, talk about it. Inform your leader of any challenges that may be happening. A great follower communicates.
Accountable – If you make a mistake, own it. Don’t pass blame or try to justify a reason why it wasn’t your fault. Integrity isn’t about doing the right thing when no one is watching, it’s also about telling someone you did something wrong when no one was watching. Hold your teammates accountable too, but don’t do it with the intent to cause tension. Do it educationally for both of you. There is always a proper way to provide feedback, which is why communication is important. A great follower is accountable.
Manage – Prioritizing is how we determine what needs to be done first and what can be done last. Management also includes time. Time management is a very important factor when working on any task. If you’re the veteran on the team prioritizing may be easy, but if you’re new you may need to ask which tasks are most important. Asking questions will help you be a better manager. A great follower knows how to manage.
Contribute – If you’re going to be on a team be a team player. Sounds easy enough, right? Contribute what you can when you can. In order to contribute effectively you must know your strengths and weaknesses. Play your strengths and improve your weaknesses. If someone needs help do your best to provide it. I believe it was Simon Sinek that said, “If you want to change to world show up to give.” I believe what he meant by this is contribute what you can to making things better and that includes people and teams. Also, don’t just contribute when asked, you should seek to serve. Find opportunities to help others. A great follower contributes.
Solutions – We all can point out problems. They’re usually easy to spot. The hardest part about problems is that they need solutions. Pointing out problems and not providing solutions to them can make it sound like you’re just complaining. If you’re going talk about a problem, provide a solution for it. If you don’t have a solution, seek feedback from others that may have an idea. A great follower provides solutions.
Adaptable – No one really likes changes, but it happens. Be an early adopter to change, not a laggard. Change may stick and it may not, but don’t be the person that is resisting it. Resisting change is going against the grain. It’s not just important to survive in your environment, but it’s important you thrive and the only way to do that is to adapt to the changes around you. Just like in a football game. If one team calls an audible, the other team must adapt to it. Our challenges can sometimes be our audible and we must learn to adapt to accomplish them. A great follower is adaptable.
Enthusiastic – It’s hard to put on a smile 24/7, especially if something personal is going on, but being positive and in good spirits is a great healthy way to work. It keeps the mood positive between teammates and drives motivation upward. With the help of managing the balance of your work and personal life you can create a positive vibe that others can feed off of. Negativity can affect your performance and others. Performance issues can create more issues. Be positive and have a great attitude. A great follower is enthusiastic.