Great Leaders Are Great Followers
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer
This may sound like a contradiction, but in my opinion, the best leaders are also the best followers. Let me explain what I mean. By learning how to be a good follower and remembering those characteristics as a leader, we will be able to lead with better effectiveness. After doing some research and thinking on this topic, I came up with seven characteristics of a great follower that, when applied, make you a great leader. Let’s take a look at the first three.
- Discernment – It has been said that people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. One of the most important qualities of a great follower is the ability to discern who is a worthy leader. What people are looking for is an authentic leader who cares deeply for her team. The simple questions any follower wants answered are: Can I trust you? Can you help me? Do you value me as a person? A leader needs to focus on all of these things when building her team. Is the person authentic? Can I trust them? Can they help me move the team toward our goal? Do they value others on the team? If the answer to any of these is no, you need to move on and keep looking.
- Passion & Energy – The followers feed off the passion and energy of the leader. If the leader can’t get excited about the journey, why should anyone else? Great followers look for the highest energy leaders who can take them to a much higher level of achievement. Similarly, great leaders also look to surround themselves with people who bring passion and energy. Let’s face it. Sometimes we just need a little help, and we may need to feed off the inspiration of a team member.
- Faith & Belief – When picking a leader to follow, you need to have a deep level of faith in them as a leader. You need to believe in them and their vision for the organization. Life is hard, and anything worthwhile is uphill. As a follower, I want a leader that I know can help me do the tough stuff. The same goes for the leader looking for a follower who will stick with the team through challenges. We need people we have faith in and who we believe will press on and finish strong.
Don’t forget that as leaders we are accountable for how we lead. It’s a privilege to lead and not a right, just as it is a privilege to follow a great leader. We need to value each other and continually work to add value to each other.
If you would like to hear about the other characteristics of a great follower, please join Marisa Norcross and me for Episode 199 or The Next Page podcast.