Updated: Feb 18
Just Say Yes
In our modern fast-paced society it seems that few are willing to volunteer to take a leadership position; but, when asked, people are willing to do much as a follower. Many reasons can be cited for this phenomenon; but, as it relates to leadership, it indicates that the single largest step toward being a leader is the willingness to say, “I will.” Try it the next time someone says, “I need someone to ….”
Of course, once having volunteered to lead, one must ask, “What do I do?” Before getting into the specifics of leadership, it should be said that the guiding principle behind “what should I do” is the well-known “golden rule.” That is, a leader should weigh all actions and decisions in the perspective of “do unto others as you would want to be done to you.” Even without further knowledge of leadership principles, following the golden rule will be a reliable guide to a leader’s path.
Lead From a Followers Perspective
Okay. So far it is “I will” and “golden rule.” But, what do I really do? Everyone either is a follower or has been a follower or will be a follower. So, the best perspective of what should a leader do is best seen through the eyes of a follower.
A leader must have followers. If the people that you are trying to rally to complete a task or goal are not willfully following you, you are not a leader. Leaders inspire people to want to work towards a particular goal, and that want needs to transcend the benefits for which they will personally gain. Some would refer to this as working for the greater good, working for the good of the team, or the organization.
If one has the opportunity to lead, the presumption is that there is a group of followers to be led, e.g., a work department, a project team, a volunteer group, a family, etc. In most cases the follower group is defined for the leader by someone else; and, therefore, this article does not address how to select team members.
It is important to mention that most good leaders, however, were good followers before they became a leader. Learning how to be a good follow is a skill set unto itself. As a follower, quiz yourself. Ask yourself, if I were the leader how would I rate myself as a follower? What would I want my followers to be like? How would I want them to interact internally with peers and externally with clients and partners? Ask yourself, why would anyone want to willingly follow me? What would motivate them to work and give an effort that goes beyond what is required? Write these qualities down and use them as a guide to help you develop as a leader and to help you coach and develop your followers.
Knowing Your Why
Having defined your team, the first thing a follower wants to know is what are we doing. The first step for the leader is to define a clear set of goals and objectives. Related to that, although not mandatory, most followers are more motivated if they know why we are doing what we are doing. That is called a “mission statement.” Write one in clear concise language.
Have a Clear Set of Goals
If there is a clear set of goals, then a measurement system must be established that provides a clear statement of progress during project execution as well as success or failure at the end of the project. Also, a communication system must be in place to convey progress. There are many choices, e.g., periodic review meetings, newsletters, graphs and charts, group emails, etc. You may choose a combination of methods.
During project execution, a follower will look to the leader to ensure that adequate resources are available to do the work. The measurement and communication systems will provide insight into conditions where resources are lacking. Team members also want the freedom to do their work.