As I’ve mentioned numerous times already, I’m pro follower. I think there are some amazing ideas out there that need people to back them. There are leaders that need supportive followers. And I think you should be one.
But what makes somebody a good follower? What demeanor or skills are required to support somebody else’s idea?
Just as great leaders must listen more than they speak, so too should great followers. Listening is an important skill for understanding the people around you and the person(s) you’re following as much as possible. What are their goals, motivations, and shortcomings? What do they worry about? What gets them out of bed in the morning?
Beyond that, the more you listen, the more information you obtain. And with more information you’ll be a much better contributor toward whatever mission in which you’re involved.
Listen to your colleagues, your leader, and the people in your market or industry. Absorb that information like a sponge, interpret it, and keep it in your back pocket for later. This way you’ll always have something to contribute and be a valued member of the team.
Great leaders don’t want followers who hide. Why would they? Followers that never speak up or who mask their true opinions prevent things from getting better faster. And if the goal of a leader is to make a specific thing better as quickly as possible, your hiding doesn’t serve her.
So be outspoken, be bold with your insights, tell it like it is. As long as you don’t forget about listening first, your words will always carry weight. And they could be the difference between success and failure.
New team members will want things to move faster than possible because they don’t know any better. They don’t have the experience which you and the senior members in your organization have.
But leaders also often lack patience. They can get so high up the ladder that they disconnect from the daily realities of your market or mission.
But you, oh valued follower, must inculcate patience at every turn. People will see your composure and, while it may frustrate them at times, will respect it. If you’re patient with others, they are more likely to be patient with you.
And if everybody around you is patient, you can overcome any obstacle.
Don’t Worry About the Credit
Followers often obsess over getting credit for their work. Such behavior is the hallmark of a bad follower. It’s the ego.
Your leader doesn’t care about credit. She is stressed. She doesn’t have time to worry about who’s idea was who’s. All she cares about is the mission.
Therefore, that’s all you should care about. The mission. Focusing on anything else takes time and energy away from your mutual goals.
Besides, when your team wins, everybody gets credit, including you.
When you get better, the team gets better. Enough said.
Leaders don’t want people who are constantly on the lookout for the next best thing. They want people to stick to the mission as long as possible. Ideally, the mission would become your life’s work. Leaders know that dedicated followers outperform paper pushers.
So before you even think of joining somebody else’s mission, be damned sure it’s something into which you can pour your heart and soul.
Being a great follower is no easy task. It takes time and practice. You won’t get it right on the first try, but that’s okay. We don’t expect you to be perfect, we only expect that you show up and build something meaningful with us.