Good Followership is Hard to Find

There is little good (or even mediocre) advice revealed through an Internet search on the topic of how to be a good follower.

And when the anemic advice is revealed that is there, it mostly focuses on how to engage in practices that are the mirror image of how one should perform to be a good follower.

followership

But while the relationship between followers and leaders is built on trust, the inherent posture a follower must have toward a leader is one of vulnerability.

Not a word—or concept—anyone with a bend toward leadership, or followership, really likes.

To be successful at being vulnerable, there has to be a relationship between people that is beyond transactional.

This is a hard sell to leaders who’d rather not be empathetic, and to followers who’d rather not have a relationship with a leader that goes anywhere beyond a measurable transaction.

Good Followership Requires Sacrifice

Then, there is the issue of ego.

Leaders and followers have egos.

That is, self-regard wrapped in self-serving language and narcissistic emotion to justify behaviors that may not be beneficial for the self or others.

That’s not the textbook definition of ego, but if you just read that out loud, you get the drift.

followership

Egos—leaders and followers alike—lead to pride.

And pride leads to willful blindness to situations, circumstances, and solutions. It also leads a person away from humility in a subordinate position, and toward arrogance.

And when ego and the necessity of vulnerability and empathy meet at crossroads in the human heart, it is easy for leaders and followers alike to make ego-drive choices.

Such choices can lead to conflict, disagreement, disputes, and eventually dysfunction on the team.

All because of ego.

Good Followership Requires Submission

The last word that blocks thinking about what it means to be a good follower, is the word submission.

This word is loaded up with all types of meaning—sexual to religious—and when it’s said out loud, it is usually whispered, or mentioned cautiously.

followership

The fact is though, in order to have a group of people to lead, they must be willing and able to consciously and with autonomy and free choice, submit to the rule—or the authority—of either someone or something, else.

Followers will submit to the leadership of those in authority at a higher level in the hierarchy than they are.

Or, followers will rebel against such submission, perceiving a lack of legitimacy in the claim to authority from the leader.

By the way, this rebellion, or submission, occurs in the emotions first and then is backed up by verbalized, rational excuse-making.

However, in order to be a good follower, a person must be willing to perform four, critical actions:

  • They must trust the leader.
  • They must be vulnerable to the leader, and demand a reciprocal exchange of vulnerability from the leader.
  • They must subsume their own ego.
  • They must willingly submit to the service of something greater than them.

This is not the type of advice you’re going to find in an Internet search of “how to be a good follower.”

But it is the truthful advice that is relevant to being a successful follower.

This is why this advice doesn’t appear in any Internet search.

Leaders need to engage in the “meat” of leadership, rather than continuing to serve the pablum of “milk” to their followers about what exactly is required of them emotionally, psychologically, and materially.

Before asking, or demanding, people join the team.

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