Followership. No matter where we are on the spectrum of leadership, whether Private First Class, CEO, President or street sweeper, there is always someone we are following. Followership takes servanthood one step further, to apply the tenets of a servant’s heart to a teamwork structure. Can you work together in a team? Can you follow a leader that you believe in, even when you may not get any credit, or even when you may not agree with their style?

What makes us a good follower? And as leaders, what do we do to foster an atmosphere of good followership?
Followership: Lessons in Military LeadershipPhoto Credit: US Army

Being An Effective Follower

Robert E. Kelley, who coined the term “Followership”, defined an effective follower as one who:

  • …makes an active decision to contribute. The key here is active. Good followers can’t just sit back and expect to be told… and who wants to be micromanaged anyway?
  • …recognizes the authority of the leader. Are you in? I mean really in? Do you give your boss or leader authority in your job/life/church? Then let your actions and words follow.
  • …makes their own decisions. Please please please… use your initiative and skill. Once your boss presents the vision, end goal, and task, use your smarts to get the job done.
  • …speaks their mind. As effective followers, we can’t simply be sheep. We are allowed to have an opinion, and to think about the task to be done.
  • …holds themselves accountable. Show self-accountability, self-discipline, and be a self-starter. Then you will be a valuable part of the team.
  • …and demonstrates enthusiasm, intelligence, self- reliance and the ability to work with others in pursuit of the goal.

Leading Effective Followers

As leaders, we have to leave room for our followers to operate, grow, and show initiative. We can’t say that we want self-starters, and then squash any outside-of-the-box thinking. And to allow our followers to work and grow, we must:

  • Know What You Want, And Say So. Like I’ve said before, quality communication is key.
  • Clarify Assumptions. “Expectation management” on both sides-leader AND follower-is vital to staying on the same page.
  • Give People The Tools They Need. You wouldn’t ask someone to build a house and then not allow them to use a hammer or saw. Give your followers the tools they need, which includes giving them the training and education they need to get the job done.
  • Demand Nothing Less than the Best. Everyone has different skills, everyone has different expertise, but as leaders we must insist that our followers are putting in their best work. Not just “mailing it in”, not just doing the least possible, but putting their heart and soul into their work. If they aren’t, then we need to find something (or somewhere) else that would allow them to do their best work.

What would you suggest are some other ideas on fostering an atmosphere of good “followership”? Or how have you seen effective followership in action? Leave me a comment and add to the discussion…