At The Latimer Group, we often say, “No one leads all the time.” Part of being a good teammate – and a good leader – is knowing how to also be a good follower. True, followership isn’t always fun; it’s not always sexy. The credit often goes to the person in the lead. But good followership can have its own rewards since the best teams celebrate the successes of the whole group.
What makes a good follower? It’s not that complicated. The concepts are simple to understand but often complicated to execute. Why? Because a little something called “the ego” gets in the way.
But if we can manage the ego; embrace the fact that there is value to ourselves, our teammates, and our leaders; and be good teammates and followers; then we have a chance to do something great. So with all of this in mind, here are a few practices that will make you a great teammate and follower:
- Be part of the process. Strong followers are not just along for the ride. They contribute to the process. Strong leaders seek the input of others in their organization, and strong followers seek to contribute whenever possible and appropriate.
- Be open to ideas other than your own. Strong followers give input and contribute, but they also realize that good ideas can come from others, too. Listen to what others have to say. Listen with your ears and your mind.
- Disagree internally, support externally. Strong followers on good teams have a responsibility to raise their hand and speak up when they disagree with something. But strong followers always share that disagreement respectfully, logically, and internally within the team. Once a decision is made final, the strong follower supports it and does everything they can to make it work. Strong followers speak up and then “get on the bus” once the decision is made.
- Celebrate the performances of others. Strong followers enjoy and celebrate the successes of their teammates. Strong followers cheer for the people around them and love to see their teams succeed. The strong follower, just like the strong leader, thinks and speaks of “we” and rarely of “I.”
- Carry your own weight. Being a strong cheerleader is important, but to be a valuable member of a team, you must also do the legwork. Everyone loves to have a positive cheerleader on the team, but eventually, if that cheerleader does not actively contribute to the team’s success, the cheering starts to ring hollow.
- Don’t run for office. Strong followers do lots of things that may eventually make them a candidate for a leadership position, but strong followers don’t actively campaign to replace the current leadership. Strong followers do their job well, and they are ready when the time comes to step forward and assume a more prominent role on the team.
- Keep the “dirty laundry” within the team. This point is similar to #3, but is still worth a separate mention. Strong followers don’t publicly criticize a teammate or team leadership. They keep their issues within the team. Weak teams don’t.
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