Behind every great leader is a lot of great followers doing all the work. Without great followers there would be no great leaders. Within our country, our businesses, and our families we need to learn to be better followers. We often have too many cooks in the kitchen to actually get anything done. The competing interests and agendas of multiple leaders can often stymie any real progress. Our Congress, it seems, is frequently an example of this. There are courses galore about great leadership, but who teaches people to be great followers? I think if we had a lot more worker bees and fewer prima donnas, then we would all be better off.
Below are 7 habits of all great followers.
In an effort to improve our country, businesses, and families, I have comprised what I think makes someone a great follower. No one usually disagrees that we need more great followers, however, we all want the other person to assume this role. I challenge you today to evaluate yourself against this list to see how you can be a better follower.
1. Make the leader’s job easier.
This is the basic marching order that every follower should focus on. Do whatever tasks need to be done to move the agenda of the leader you choose to follow forward as quickly as possible. There is nothing more valuable than a person with initiative to work. This is what accomplishes all fabulous feats. It usually takes several dedicated, hard-working souls to get the job done. Leaders need ideas. This means they usually have some great followers doing research, summarizing information into digestible chunks, and making sound recommendations. These all help to make the leader’s job easier.
2. Keep the leader informed.
All great followers have their ear to the ground listening for where the leader should focus their attention next. They keep the boss informed of where the next challenge, attack, or opportunity may arise. A great follower never lets the leader be blind-sided with a question or issue that they were completely unaware of. Followers usually have better informal information networks than leaders. This is crucial information that the leader desperately needs to guide their movement forward. Think of yourself as the scout on the battlefield. You need to always be looking forward to advise the general where to move the troops next.
3. Be loyal.
A great follower is loyal almost to a fault. No one is going to agree with every decision a leader makes, but we must publicly support every decision. In private, it is the follower’s job to question the leader to help them develop policy. However, once the leader makes a decision and goes public with with it, the follower must support that decision no matter how painful it becomes. If you cannot support your leader’s decision, then it is time to step aside and move on.
4. Respect the chain of command.
Great followers know the chain of command and respect it. They would never consider going over their bosses head. Great followers know their leaders. They know how to persuade and convince their leader on important issues. With this ability, there really is no reason to step over the bounds of one’s position. The truly great followers are cunning and adept at the art of getting things done within proper channels. Every leader values a follower that knows how to use the chain of command properly.
5. Be a great listener and sounding board.
Great listeners are hard to find, but every leader needs them. Leaders need someone to bounce their ideas off of. They also need a confidant that will allow them to blow off steam without passing judgement. Being a great follower requires excellent listening skills. You also need the ability to pick up on the subtle messages that your boss is sending. Learn to read your leader’s body language. Help them manage their stress and health. These are ways a follower can make themselves indispensable!
6. Protect the leaders’s time.
As we all know, there is only so much time in a day. Every leader struggles with this. A great follower protects their leader’s time. They screen what gets through to the leader. They eliminate those things that are simply distractions and they condense whatever possible to just what the leader needs to know. In addition, great followers are prepared when they meet with the leader to minimize the time necessary for maximum effect. Be thorough, but make it brief!
7. Complete all assignments early.
The follower that completes tasks well before the due date adds years to their leaders life! No one needs the stress and anxiety caused by those that finish everything at the last minute or a day late. We might not always understand why something needs to be done by a certain time, but it is our job to handle it. Great followers always manage their time well. They are able to pull off the miraculous when necessary. Furthermore, by getting the regular stuff done well ahead of time, this makes you available to be the hero when emergencies arise. Leaders love those that get things done early!
Develop these 7 habits to be a great follower.
If only the world were full of natural followers, it would truly be a great place to live! Followers really are the ones that get things done. They make the world turn. You won’t go wrong if you develop these seven habits as a follower. In fact, if you do these well, you’ll probably find yourself becoming a leader before you know it!
What other habits does it take to be a great follower? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.