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The Importance of Followship

If you have not heard the term “followship” before you can be forgiven because it is not a quality that is admired or spoken about much. Leadership is usually held up as the goal we should all aspire to. However, are not leaders initially followers? Would there be leaders without followers? Leaders and followers are mutually dependent, equal, and need to work together to make a project, plan, school or any organisation successful.

Have a look at this short video highlighting the role and effect of followers.

It’s weird that we do not give followship much thought, however, considering our preoccupation with leadership, it is no surprise. So, let’s lift the veil just a little on the concept of followship so that we can better understand just how important and valuable it is.

Followship Defined

It is the willingness to cooperate with others to accomplish a greater common goal by being a committed team player, supportive and excelling at what you are doing without having star status.

Followship is not a person, it’s a role which is different to leadership and is not inferior.

The Qualities of Effective Followers

Effective followers are not a bunch of yes-people or sheep that just passively follow the leader. Quite to the contrary, they are positive and actively involved.

1. They are independent thinkers

Good followers can work independently and think for themselves. They can work without close supervision and keep their eye on the bigger picture of what is to be achieved. They consider themselves, without being disrespectful, as equals with their leaders and are not afraid to disagree with them. After all, leaders are also followers.

2. They are committed

They are committed to the goals of their organisation yet this should not be misconstrued as loyalty to a leader – they are co-workers with the leaders. Their hearts are in their work and they are enthusiastic.

3. They develop their competence

They have high standards and make professional development a priority so that they can be as effective as possible. Their colleagues are not their competitors, rather people who are on the same team.

4. They are courageous

Believe it or not, it takes courage to be an effective follower.

  • Courage to support your leaders and stand up to them should it be necessary.
  • Courage to take on responsibility.
  • Courage to speak up when the leaders cross the line on moral or ethical issues.
  • Courage to think for yourself and be candid.

Followship is highly underrated in spite of the fact that it has the power to shape leaders’ behaviour and keep an organisation on track. We need to dispense with the idea that followers are less important and embrace the fact that involved followers are the key to effective and successful undertakings and organisations.

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