Be an exemplary follower

You might have read many articles about leadership traits, but my today’s article is unique in the sense that I am going to tell you what is inside the mind of a good follower.

To be a good leader, your journey should start with how to be a good follower first because all good leaders were once good followers until they became great leaders.

People are the most important asset of an organization. The basic task of a leader is to be people-oriented. Poor people management is an important contributor to the failure of any organization.

Leadership is a process and not a position. Basic components of leadership include leader, followers, and situation. A leader is different from other leaders due to his/her personality, skill set, exposures, qualities, expertise, etc.

Followers also vary on a similar personal trait basis, while situations compromise on a particular environment, kind of task, pressure, and other situational factors. These components play a very important role in the leadership process. The same leader with different followers and situations can have different results.

Leaders always depend on their followers. Followers’ actions/attitudes influence their leader and the process of leadership also. The performance of leaders & followers is dependent upon one another. Followers are classified into Pragmatic, Alienated, Conventional, Passive, and Exemplary. Today, I will shed light on exemplary followers only.

Exemplary Followers contribute above and beyond expectations. They always try to add value to the organization in any form. They are creative and risk-takers. They are highly idealistic and can suffer disappointment and even go through stress and ultimately reach burnout if not given importance and a challenging environment. They believe that their contribution to the organization is always essential. So they always work for the organization with commitment and devotion. Always remember, good employees, work for the organization and not for their managers.

The exemplary followers are always focused on the goal, contribute to the growth of other team members, always help to keep the team on track, and always take the initiative to increase their value to the organization.

Responsibilities of Exemplary Followers: When all components of this leadership process are in line with each other and working in collaboration, the results are the effectiveness of the outcome. Especially the leader and followers are dynamic inputs and play a very important role in the outcome. There are some basic responsibilities expected from exemplary followers.

1. Support the leader’s decisions and vision: Followers need to support the leader’s decisions. This is true when leaders and followers work like a team and decisions are taken by the participative process. Need for dialogue before important decisions are very important. Once a decision is taken by the leader then it becomes everybody’s decision. Everybody needs to own and support these decisions.

2. Challenge the leader: For a group to be effective and dynamic, team members also challenge the process, procedures, and decisions. They do differ in policies, procedures, etc but not in personalities. This is a good sign for dynamic groups/teams. The followers also challenge the leader on different issues within the group/team. They challenge the leader on decisions and make sure that all the work is going in the right direction and towards the achievement of goals. This challenge is for the improvement of decision-making and avoiding groupthink.

3. Encourage the leader: The followers always encourage the leaders. Provide full support for his/her creative ideas. They also support him/her when he/she is under some pressure/stress. Also, support the leader in bad times and encourage him/her to make better decisions.

4. Defend the leader: The followers also defend their leader in any situation or at the time of need. They also defend his/her actions, decisions, and policies for the achievement of organizational goals.

What exemplary Followers Expect from Leaders:

Followers also have certain expectations from leaders. To be followers, people expect certain characteristics in their leaders. Leaders must be;

i. Honest: Followers expect leaders, to be an honest person so that he or she can build trust.

Honesty provides a basis for trust-building.

ii. Forward-looking: A leader must be a visionary so that he/she can predict the future of the organization. Anticipate changes and be proactive rather than reactive. The vision then is based on two components that leaders also need: creativity and intellectual drive.

iii. Inspiring: A leader should have an inspiring personality. Inspiring for development, inspiring for better and better.

iv. Competent: A leader should be competent enough to perform his/her duties and provide directions to the team members. They need to be there when others are stuck and need answers.

v. Fair-minded: A leader with a fair mind and unbiased personality is always known as a better leader. For a good leader, every member of the team is equal to him/her. The difference, if any, is due to performance and commitment to the team mission.

 I would like to end with a Chinese proverb, “If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees and If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people”.

 Think of someone you know in your life who is a good leader and write down in the comments below, why you think he/she is a good leader?

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