In the modern workplace, I think a lot of emphasis is placed on leadership. There are books, articles, and training programs on how to be a good leader. Being a leader means being smart and successful. It’s something that everyone is supposed to strive to be.
In contrast, there aren’t that many books or articles on how to be a good follower. In fact, “follower” almost sounds like a dirty word. It brings to mind someone who scrambles around, following orders without comment or complaint, never expressing an opinion, and smiling and agreeing to everything.
As a result, more and more offices are becoming filled with leaders (and people aspiring to become leaders), and followers are starting to be in short supply. This is a problem, for two reasons:
- People who view themselves as leaders can have difficulty working with other leaders.
- Followers are essential.
Leaders can’t exist without followers and organizations can’t run without them. Followers are the people who do the work to support the leader’s objectives.
And following is a skill, just like any other. Good followers are critical thinkers and problem solvers. They can work independently, and also collaborate when needed. And they’re also the ones who help to keep leaders in check. Their honest feedback is necessary to keep leaders grounded in reality.
Followers are often seen as unimportant or unmotivated, but they shouldn’t be. They are critical to the success of any organization. So if you’re a follower, be proud! Your office couldn’t run without you!
Shellenbarger, S. (2015, September 30). Leader? No, Be a Follower. The Wall Street Journal, pp. D1, D3.