A quick Google search with the keywords “how to be a great leader” will return more than 150 million results of advice rooted in research, experience, and stories. However, if you Google the same concept but instead being a follower – “how to be a great follower” – it results in less than half of that amount.
Why is that?
Why is it that we still focus on praising leaders while dismissing followers?
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 mostly undiscovered, impact that an intelligent and passionate follower can have on a leader and the team.
An article found on Fast Company shared an interesting 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.”
Wow, “giving followers more power.”
Passionate followers are what turn a lone-nut into a leader. They’re often on the front lines, giving them access to more knowledge and diverse experiences. They also have respect resulting in influence in a group.
People often get hung up on being a leader, but to be a great leader, you must first be a great follower.
A good follower knows when to encourage the leader to develop an idea or potential path for the team further, and often leads the activity. They know when to support the leader and help sell ideas to others. An excellent follower dares to inform the leader if when things are heading in the wrong direction. And they dare to point out areas where a leader can improve their approach or skill-set, and then assists them in their quest to improve.
You don’t always have to be the leader to lead.
As John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”
I’ve seen the TED talk below and shared it many times with people I love. Derek Sivers captures the essence and power that a first follower can wield — they turn “a lone-nut into a leader.”