A quick Google search on “how to be a great leader” will return more than 150 million results of advice rooted in research, experience and stories. However, try to Google the same idea but being a follower results in less than half of that amount.
Why is that?
Why is it that we still focus on applauding the leaders and neglecting the followers, while both are deserving?
Note: I only use “follower” here as most folks are aware of and follow the juxtaposition of leader and/or/vs follower. “If you’re not a leader, you’re a follower” kind of (sad) thing.
There is an understated (and potentially undiscovered) impact that an intelligent and passionate follower can have on a leader and the team.
And article found on Fast Company shared an important theory from Barbara Kellerman, a leadership lecturer at Harvard University and author of Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, stating that “the significant shifts in technology and culture have changed the dynamic, giving followers more power.”
Followers are no longer “sheep”. And good followers can have even more impact than a leader as they hold large quantities of varying knowledge, influence and respect within a group.
A good follower knows when to encourage the leader to further develop an idea or potential path for the team, and often participates in the activity. They know when to support the leader and help sell ideas to others. A good follower has the courage to let the leader know when they could benefit from developing another skill further, are doing something wrong or are headed in the wrong direction.
You don’t always have to be the leader to lead. And by being a great follower, you can strengthen the leader to help drive change, meaningful results and further enable the team/group to thrive.
I’ve seen the TED video below and shared it with others many times. Derek Sivers captures the essence and power that a first follower can wield — they turn “a lone nut into a leader.”
“Without great followers, no leader would achieve greatness.” – @KevinJDaum