Thursday, March 6, 2008


Unless you are the president of the United States, pretty much everyone - even those who we consider as great leaders - must also be followers. Smaller units, led by capable leaders, follow the lead of the higher organization. Company leaders take orders from the board of directors. Quarterbacks listen to their coaches...who answer to the owner/GM...etc. And when you think about it, even the President must, to some extent, be a follower of those who elected him!
In a military full of great leaders, everyone answers to someone. Squad leaders follow the orders of platoon leaders, who answer to company commanders, who are accountable to battalion commanders...and so on. Three-star generals report to 4-stars. General Petreus reports to the Commander in Chief of the Central Command -- and to the President. All leaders, while terrific in their own right, must be able to follow commands as well as issue them.

So...leaders must also be able to follow. What makes a good follower? The ability to think less of themselves and more of the team. The ability to maintain humility (not thinking less of themselves but thinking of themselves less). The desire to do whatever it takes to make the team successful, regardless of who gets the credit.

Good followers understand that it is still possible to be a leader in completing assigned tasks (exercising initiative, building subordinate teams, etc.) while still acknowledging that someone else is calling the shots. Good followers know that it matters less how many points they score but whether the team wins the game. Good followers deflect praise to the team when things go well and accept criticism on behalf of the team when things do not. Good followers offer suggestions, participate in the generation of ideas and solutions, and then allow the leader to make the final decision. And then they if the plan was theirs from the beginning (even if it was not)! Good followers support their leaders and enable their success.

It's great to be "the man," to be in charge, to be a leader. But all of us still are accountable to others. At any given time, only one person can call the shots. The rest of us -- make things happen -- and wait for our turn to be in the spotlight! Good leaders must also be good followers. That's Leader Business. Hooah!

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