“The most difficult instrument to play in the orchestra is second fiddle.”
~ Leonard Bernstein
Did you know that natural born leaders can also be great followers?
Did you ever even think there was such a thing as a great follower?
Well, read on and I’ll explain why it’s worth adding some followership skills to your arsenal.
Make it Look Right in THEIR Eyes
Join a decent consultancy firm and you will learn all about client service.
As a good consultant you will put the client first, you will listen to the client and you will hear the client.
You will understand that you won’t win points by telling the client they’re wrong, but by allowing them to draw upon your skills and knowledge in the way that THEY want to in order to make things right.
Finally, you will understand that it’s when things look right in THEIR eyes, and not in yours, that you will have done a good job.
The Followership Concept
As a consultant it’s very often just as important to be a good follower as it is to be a good leader.
This is particularly important for natural born leaders.
For a natural leader to play a strong role in a team that they are not formally leading can be quite a challenge.
Perhaps you have seen it before that an individual in a team situation tries to ‘take over’ when it’s not really their position to…
… they can’t help themselves.
This can be a common occurrence in the ‘Storming’ stage of team development.
The result of this is often that the person who is supposed to be fulfilling that role feels undermined and the team dynamic can often break down.
You may have also seen the reverse situation where a leader is really successful thanks to the support of a great team or maybe just a great right hand person.
In fact, right hand person, or trusted advisor roles are some of the most powerful roles you can get, often benefiting from a lot of referent power via association with the leader, yet also with more reach and exposure – which such a position used wisely with good followership skills allows.
Good Followership Is Not As Easy As It Sounds
It may seem obvious to some, but what I have learned through experience is that being a good follower is often very important and is not as easy as it sounds.
It is an absolute art form and if you can master it so that you are consciously a good follower, then it is another string to your bow, will give you far greater flexibility and people will want to work with you.
I use the example of a consultant as most people have worked with consultants of some description at one point or another and therefore can relate to why followership might be important in that kind of role.
The next step is to realize that actually, this concept is important in EVERY role, in every sector and in every situation.
If you’re not the leader, then who are you going to be?
If you’re not in a team, then by definition you are the leader (of yourself).
In all other circumstances you’re either a good team player, helping the leader and the team to succeed – i.e. you’re a good follower, or you’re not (whether it’s sitting on the sidelines or something more actively disruptive).
Picture The Scene
You step into my office – I’m about to interview you for a role you really want.
I ask you: “So would you say you’re a good leader?”
You answer confidently with a smile: “Yes.”
Then I ask you: “… and do you also know how to be a good follower?”
… and it’s when you can also answer “Yes.” to the second question, that you are an interesting prospect for my business.
So consider the idea of followership – and when it might be appropriate.
- Instead of criticizing (either openly or when the person you’re criticizing is not there), offer your full support even when the person you’re supporting may have different ideas than your own.
- Instead of waiting for an idea to fail because you wouldn’t do it that way, get interested, offer even more support and help make the idea succeed.
If you are a natural leader then you will understand better than anyone how powerful that support can be and how much it’s needed and you will be a better, stronger and more respected individual for it.