You may disagree with this wholeheartedly, but not everyone can be a leader. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t or can’t have leadership qualities, but it’s a simple numbers game. If everyone was a leader how would things run? Have you ever been in a group setting where everyone wanted to be in charge? Absolutely nothing effective gets done in those types of settings where everyone wants to be a leader. If you aren’t the leader, that’s ok! I’m so tired of these gurus and books about how you should be the leader, and how you should strive to be a great leader, etc…
If you aren’t cut out to lead… then don’t lead, it’s really that simple. You will know for sure if you have ever tried it. Don’t force it upon yourself, you are doing a major disservice to yourself and to those who you lead. Instead become a great follower. There’s nothing wrong with being a great follower and I’m not saying you should compromise yourself in being a follower either. What I’m saying is that our western society, for various reason, celebrates leaders, but never great followers and that is just shameful. I’ve come across a few managers, supervisors, etc… in my life that were great at their previous job, but when promoted to a leadership role they were terrible. They were just thrust onto the position, because that’s what climbing the corporate ladder is all about.
I don’t even follow sports and such, but I am aware of its existence and I am aware that in football both coaches (the leaders) and the players (the followers) are celebrated! The great coach wasn’t a great player, but rather had a set of skills to be a great leader. Even if the coach is a terrible coach, but the player is great, the player is still celebrated.
I find it completely confusing and utterly obtuse that this sort of concept is not found in business. Instead of having both the leaders and followers celebrated, only the leaders are lifted up.
We need to start celebrating more of the players in business, rather than the coaches. How do you become a great follower? Here are a few actions you can take:
- Demand clear expectations. (of course do it in a nice and respectful way), but notice I said demand.. and not ask. Your average everyday follower, peon worker won’t do this. As a great follower you will demand them.
- Insist on receiving feedback, don’t wait until feedback is given to you. Do you know how well you are doing? Are you serving your leader well? Don’t always expect praise for doing your job, but rather ask for ways how you can do your job even better (even if you are doing a spectacular job).
- Anticipate your leaders needs. This one is a bit more difficult to action, but once you have a rhythm with the leader you are working with, try to anticipate what they will ask for next (whether it’s on a project, or task). You should notice patterns in communication, and tasks/projects given to you after working with your leader after some time.
- Over-communicate rather than under-communicate. Unless your leader is directly advising you to “stop communicating so much” it’s better to over-communicate your activities and actions.
- Follow up with your leader and reiterate the expectations of your project and/or task. Have those expectations changed or stayed the same in light of the work at hand?
- When in doubt ask for clarity. Don’t assume anything – what you are thinking and what your leader is thinking when approaching the same task or project may be completely different. If there’s any doubt, then simply ask for clarity. An effective leader will no doubt provide clarity for you. A terrible leader will probably just scoff, but ask for clarity anyways.
- Don’t just be another clock in and clock out peon. Actually care about your leader’s success or the success of the company. I guarantee that you won’t go far in a job if you don’t care about your company or their success. If you don’t care then don’t work there! If you want to be a great follower, you need to be invested in your company’s success. As the saying goes “A rising tide lifts all boats” – don’t let your boat sink either… if you aren’t invested in your company’s success then you are like a sinking boat.
Thanks for reading!