Are You A Good Follower?

by Onyeka Nchege on August 15, 2012

Recently I was in a heated discussion with one of my teammates.  The discussion centered on her desire to be a good leader. It was a great discussion all the way around and we were 30 minutes into the conversation when I said, “you don’t need to worry about being a better leader until you become a better follower……..because being a better follower will make you a better leader”.

As you can imagine, she was very disappointed on hearing this as no one wants to think they are a follower and not a leader. I went on to explain that there are several reasons why you want and should strive to be a better follower in your quest to be a better leader.  Below are the 3 things we discussed, and I asked her to focus on, to make her a better leader.

  1. An excellent follower pays attention and receives instruction positively.  This has to do with humility – Learn to humble yourself and follow instructions and others will follow you and do the same when you are in the leader role.
  2. An excellent follower focuses on what works and doesn’t work from other leaders’ behaviors and they adjust their style accordingly.  This has to do with adaptability. Learn to anticipate what’s coming and where you want to go and what is required to get there. Use the followership time to hone your leadership capabilities.
  3. An excellent follower challenges the leader appropriately and makes them better. This has to do with relationship. If you simply say “yes” to everything, you are not growing yourself as a leader nor are you an asset to your leader.  You must be careful not to make the leader feel you know more than he does… It kills the relationship (It is viewed as the lid that has become greater than the pot)

While I am positive there are many more follower principles to enhance your preparation as a leader, the reality is it begins with a willingness to accept that every leader starts out in a follower role.  Accepting the follower role and performing exceptionally well in this role prepares you to be a worthy leader.  Failure to be a good follower will inevitably result in ineffective leadership

TAKE ACTION:   What do you need to do to be a better follower?

Leadership on the go…….it’s O.N


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A recent finalist for the 2017 ORBIE CIO of the Year award, Onyeka brings more than 20 years of experience leading teams, developing strategies and building technology solutions. He has also led the creation and integration of technology solutions for a network of retail store franchises and distributors across North and Central America. Onyeka contributes to CIO Review magazine and shares his insights and experience with peers and colleagues via his own blog, Before joining Interstate Batteries in 2015, Onyeka led teams at Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, where he modernized technology practices and powered business processes for daily, on-the-street use. He is a graduate of the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University and currently serves on the EVANTA Dallas CIO Governing Body. If Onyeka were not at Interstate, he’d find another way to combine his three biggest passions: his faith, helping others, and, of course, information technology. Because ultimately, as he puts it, “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can always help someone.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar Tarrik Dimiati August 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm

In addition to your list, I feel that one’s ability to Communicate effectively is paramount to being a Good Follower. A Good Follower must be able to listen, articulate and execute on information and instructions given. Combined these factors increases one’s chances of becoming an effective leader.


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