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Followership is NOT a Bad Word!

Part of our coaching and teaching at The Latimer Group is about leadership. But in our client work, we rarely talk about leadership without also mentioning the importance of followership. We’re talking about it with a number of our clients, and they all like the concepts we are discussing: being a great teammate, listening well, understanding and promoting the agendas of the group/your colleagues above your own, collaboration, respect… These are topics that our clients love.

But while all of our clients want us teaching these concepts in our workshops, several of them (but not all) have politely pushed back on referring to them collectively with that term “followership.” For several of our client organizations, the concept of following is not necessarily a BAD thing, but it is certainly not a good thing. Many organizations prefer to focus on leadership, and training all their employees to be leaders-in-waiting. We like that as well. Teaching leadership is always a good thing, and it will always be something we care about deeply here at The Latimer Group.

But as we say all the time, no one, and I mean NO ONE, leads ALL the time. At some point, we all need to know how to follow. Following is not a bad thing. Knowing how to be a good teammate, and how to follow and respect someone else’s lead is critical skill. Knowing how to respect, and demonstrate that respect tangibly, is also a critical skill.

We all need to start getting away from thinking that following somehow means we are lesser. Following does not mean weakness, or some sort of character flaw. In my experience, the people with the deepest character flaws are the ones who have no idea and no interest in learning how to follow others.

Followership is not a bad word. It is a mission critical skill set in the 21st century workplace.

We all need to get comfortable with that.

Have a great day.

At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in Leadership Communications, Public Speaking, and Executive-Level Business Presentations. To learn more, e-mail us at info@TheLatimerGroup.com

2 responses to “Followership is NOT a Bad Word!”

  1. Doug Shefsky says:

    Lead, Follow or Get out of the way!
    I agree with you Dean. At work, it should be accepted and expected to be skilled in the first two. In my experience, good teamwork and getting to consensus is extremely challenging when everyone is trying to lead.

    Perhaps the challenge for some of the leaders you’ve spoken to is that they don’t know how to effectively recognize and reward good followership.

    • Dean Brenner says:

      Excellent point, Doug! Thank you for chiming in.

      I think you are correct… we need to “destigmatize” the concept of following first. It should be OK to be a great teammate, to be a great follower.

      Once the stigma is gone, all sorts of other good things can happen.

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