Leadership and Followership… Both Matter

Everyone always wants to talk about leadership. Every organization is obsessed with training its leaders, present and future. And many professionals invest in developing their own leadership skills. Important stuff, and I am not suggesting those are bad things to focus on. But leadership is only one part of the equation for a successful organization.

The other part… and in some ways, the more important part… is the concept of “followership.”

Most organizations prefer to focus on leadership, and training all their employees to be leaders-in-waiting. I understand that choice. Teaching leadership is always a good thing, and it will always be something we care about deeply here at The Latimer Group.

But in our client work, we rarely talk about leadership without also mentioning the importance of followership: 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 every organization needs to care about, and that are essential to organizational success.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, leads ALL the time. At some point, we all need to know how to follow. And following is not a bad thing. Knowing how to be a good teammate… Knowing how to follow someone else’s ideas… Knowing how to respect, and demonstrate that respect tangibly… Knowing when to step back, be quiet and let someone else lead the discussion… Knowing when to check your judgment… Knowing when the opinion you want to dig in on might be based on incomplete information… these are all signs of someone who understands how to be good follower. These are critical skills that every organization needs plenty of, and that each of us needs in our repertoire.

Followership gets a bad rap… most of us, when we look in the mirror, prefer to see a leader. But we all need to get away from that 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.

And most importantly, being a good follower does not preclude you from being a good leader as well. You can be both… and in fact, the people who can do both well have incredible power and potential impact.

Followership is not a bad word. And no one leads all the time. Followership is a mission critical skill set in the 21st century workplace, and organizations and individuals both benefit from understanding its importance.

We all need to get comfortable with that. Leadership and Followership matter, in equal measure.

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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Brett Slater

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.