Followership is NOT a Bad Word!

(Writer’s Note: We pulled this one from the archive today, for two reasons: First, this concept of followership continues to be an important one, from our perspective. And second, my creative juices were not flowing this morning… I needed a little help from the archive! But in all seriousness, you can’t have good leadership inside your organization without good followership. We need both to have a truly functional organization. Yes, good leaders can create some good followership traits in others. But the responsibility for good followership does not lie entirely with the leader. The people on the team, at some point, need to decide to be good teammates and good followers. In my opinion, the most valuable members inside an organization know how and when to lead… AND how and when to follow. We need both.)

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.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.