We hear a lot about leadership in business these days, and quite recently I found myself discussing leadership qualities in the HR field whilst undergoing an assessment for Investors in People.
It made me think. In order to have leaders you have to have followers – we can’t all be leaders! So, when you’ve finished looking at what makes a good leader (which may well be different in varying business sectors), maybe you should be looking at what makes a good follower? In military terms this would be the qualities of a lieutenant.
I’d say that a good follower is someone who embraces and upholds the ideals and key values of the leader, and who is able, once a programme has been devised and understood, to see that it is carried out, and then provide feedback. The ideal follower is not a ‘yes-man’ and should be able and willing to challenge the leader and also to provide input, ideas and suggestions. Slavish loyalty and a ‘the boss is always right’ mindset is not what I would look for in a follower.
So, far from being the passive role that the term might suggest, being a follower is actually an active and dynamic role.
You may have heard the saying ‘First class managers (leaders) recruit first class people: second class managers (leaders) recruit third class people’. Although that’s not universally true, it does set out what I’m saying. A first class leader should not be afraid of having first class followers.
By all means have your leadership competency framework – but give some thought to what behaviours make an ideal follower too. Once you’ve thought about it, it may be quite different to what you expected!
In future blogs I’ll be looking at some qualities of leadership and ‘followership’. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a good leader and follower?