Do you remember the game we played as kids called Follow the Leader? I remember it well. The leader would take the followers over the toughest course possible in an effort to find something the others simply couldn’t do. When you reached that point, you essentially won the game. In our yard, the leader would climb the redwood fence and walk along the top for a section or two, jump into the rose bush, shimmy up the swing post and crawl on top of the swing, fall face first into the mud puddle, chase the neighbor’s mad dog, then race over and back across the street dodging traffic in an effort to find something the other kids could not do. Needless to say, we were reckless… but, competitive!
Let’s take a look at this game from the perspective of adults striving to be successful in today’s competitive corporate world or in any other situation involving leaders and followers. We’ll look at the game from both perspectives…
Being a good Follower
- A good follower keeps the ultimate target in view – When we participate on a team, group, or family, there is usually a target or purpose for what we do. It is important, as a follower, that we understand our purpose and keep our eyes focused on it.
- A good follower is focused on the leader – Followers need to trust their leader. Unless we remain focused on the leader, we are likely to take our own path which may not be the proper path. Keep your eyes on the one you are trusting to take you to the end.
- A good follower supports both the team effort and individual members – When we support others, we all become better. A good follower understands that no individual can truly be successful unless the team succeeds.
- A good follower is competitive – A good follower is driven to win! And, that desire to win will drive the follower to support the team, pull more that their share of the effort, and never give up.
- A good follower communicates vertically and horizontally – A good follower is in constant communication both with his/her teammates and the leader. A good follower also is not afraid to voice an opinion and avoid group think. The best teams are the sum of the best parts of the individual members working together.
- A good follower remains optimistic even in the face of adversity – Never give up! Many victories have been won simply because the team failed to consider defeat.
- A good follower does more than their own fair share – When each member does their share and more, the output of the team multiplies. The best teams apply the rule of multiplication, not addition.
- A good follower stays committed to the end – Good followers do not desert the team. They stay focused and dedicated all the way across the finish line.
- A good follower is loyal first to the team – Loyalty builds trust and the best teams trust the most.
- A good follower is intellectually involved – A good follower is never afraid to speak up when needed. He/She will not just blindly follow without being invested fully.
- A good follower has fun – The best teams enjoy what they do… they have fun! A good follower is not afraid to express humor and enjoy the journey.
Being a good Leader
There is much to learn from Follow the Leader for us today. Imagine, in our game of Follow the Leader, that all the followers are blindfolded. They cannot see the leader. What kind of result would you expect? Here are a few key components of a good leader:
- A good leader casts a vision – It is important for any team or group to understand where they are going and what it is they hope to accomplish. Without a vision, the members and team will tend to flounder and quickly fall off track. And, members will lose interest.
- A good leader is visible – You can’t be a good leader unless you are seen. Members need to personally experience your vision, your character, and they queue off your actions.
- A good leader communicates – Team members must hear from the leader. Thus, a good leader does not assume that members have all the information they need. It is always better to over-communicate.
- A good leader gets personally involved – The very best leaders are not afraid to get their own hands dirty. They are willing to fall into the mud hole, if needed. Member needs to see that the leader is personally invested in the result and will do whatever it takes to achieve the goal.
- A good leader is bold – A good leader will take reasoned risks. Winners do not always just play it safe. Sometimes, you need to go outside the normal boundaries to achieve what is needed… even if it involves some personal risk.
- A good leaders thinks outside the box – Good leaders often offer or solicit unique approaches to problems. Looking at situations from unusual viewpoints is often needed to see a new approach.
- A good leader is encouraging – Good leaders constantly encourage the members of the team. They understand that the best performance only occurs when members are constantly motivated and feel their efforts are appreciated.
- A good leader is competitive – The best leaders hate to lose! And, to win, they know that progress needs to occur every day. Finding a way to be better, cheaper, and faster is a constant motivation.
- A good leader allows individuality and creativity – A good leader allows members to flourish individually, provided that individual results help, not hamper, the team. Allowing creativity encourages synergism.
- A good leader celebrates individual and team successes – A good leader knows that victory doesn’t come every day. Thus, he/she knows that when victories do come, they need to be celebrated.
- A good leader has fun – Individuals follow a leader best when they feel fulfilled and have fun. Making the effort fun is essential for success.
Each of us functions as a follower and a leader. So, it is good to refresh our understanding of what it takes, from both perspectives, to be completely successful. Just like the Follow the Leader game we played as kids, life demands that we embrace our roles and play them well for the team or group to be successful.
Think about your own situation as a follower or leader. Are you good at those roles? What do you need to do differently to be better starting tomorrow?