Improve Your Leadership Skills; Know When to Follow

I know, leading and following sound like oxymorons but good followership is an important weapon in a leader’s toolbox and will also improve your leadership skills. Most of us are not born leaders it’s something learned and honed through experiences. Even if we are given the title of supervisor, manager, vice president, president, or any other title, it does not make us a leader. Even when you become a good leader there are times when the best option is to follow others.

Being a good follower does not mean aimlessly following a supervisor. Although good followers are loyal, they are not afraid to speak up when something is wrong or could be done better. Good followers help bring others on-board and transform them into good followers. Good followers have a great work ethic. They are not afraid to put in the work to help the team and company succeed. A good follower knows how to control their ego. Additionally, they pursue the best direction even if it’s not the direction they wanted to go in.

Qualities of a Good Follower

  • Respect for others
  • Awareness of limitations
  • Good judgment
  • Loyalty
  • Great work ethic
  • Competence of the job
  • Honesty
  • Courage
  • Discretion
  • Ego management

Related content: Why good followers are important, and 8 qualities good followers must possess

How Being a Good Follower Will Improve Your Leadership Skills

Respect for followers

Leaders that have been and know when to follow understand that they are not superior to the people that follow them. Good leaders understand that they are human beings and therefore flawed just like those that follow them. Not respecting your followers is an easy way to lose followers quickly. A leader understands that the most important piece of leadership is followers. Without followers, you can’t be a leader.

You are not always the expert

Although your employees may look to for guidance and direction in many situations, there are times where a subordinate has more experience and is better equipped to lead in certain situations. Every person has their strengths and weaknesses, and this is an opportunity to utilize someone else’s strengths to overcome areas that you may be weaker in. Allowing others to lead in these situations will also improve your knowledge in that area.

Builds trust

When you show your employees that you are willing to let them take the lead at times, it builds trust with that employee and other team members. This shows your teammates that you are willing to make the right call even when it sacrifices your leadership status temporarily. If you don’t allow your employees to lead in areas where they have the expertise, they will begin to believe you don’t trust them. If trust is lost resentment will start to take over.

Develops employees

As a leader, we are not only trying to grow ourselves, but it is also our mission to develop our employees. Allowing subordinates to take the lead and taking a step back can give them a little experience at the next level with the security of having you there just in case. The more your team members can do without your direct supervision, the more time you have available to focus on other areas.

Understands the value of other’s opinions

Good followers understand other opinions and ideas are just as important as their own. This is very important for a leader to know as well. Two minds are always better than one. A good leader understands that a great idea can come from anywhere. It doesn’t matter if the idea comes from someone who has been at the company for ten years or ten days.

Understands the importance of teamwork

Good followers understand the importance of teamwork. Leaders must also understand the importance of the team. They understand that they are nothing without their team. Much more can be accomplished if everybody is working well together. One of your jobs as a leader is to get your team to work at peak efficiency. This means understanding each piece of the puzzle that makes up your team. Knowing their individual and combined strengths and weaknesses.

Final Thoughts

Having a better understanding of what it takes to be a good follower will improve your leadership skills. A lot of the qualities of a good follower directly correlate into making you a better leader. Although it can be hard to allow others to take the lead, if done at the right time, it can make you and your team a lot stronger.

Read this great article about building influence: 9 Tips to Boost Influence.

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