Why Followers are so important in your Organization
The leaders are always at the center of attention. I agree leaders are essential to the company! They are the ones that enable your organization to thrive. We, people, forget to have leaders, we need followers! (who can be defined as team members). Without the followers, the leaders don’t exist.
Why Companies Need Followers
Let's imagine an organization where all its employees would be leaders. Each manager decides which direction they would like to go. They may all go in different directions. The company would just not have any common strategy and probably not find any clients, and even worst, the company would not have a common purpose and will not achieve anything (as illustrated by the vectors schema below).
You will tell me but if they all lead in the same direction, this will not be the case. I will answer, you have a leader that defined the strategy and the other leaders follow this vision. You have consequently a leader and several followers. This is the opposite case of the previous one. A main leader decides the direction for all and the followers help row in the same direction. This will enable the company to reach extraordinary results.
Having an aligned vision is critical, in an organization and this is the reason we need a leader that will define the interest of the company to avoid having each person working in their own interest leading to no result.
Companies have a purpose to deliver to their clients. In order to do so somebody have to take the decision of what would be the plan and strategy to reach the goals. The CEO or senior leadership defines the vision for the employee to follow. Most of the time define on a work breakdown structure of the project to delegate some tasks to different teams, and members in order to achieve the result expected. This is why this is so important for leaders, to communicate correctly their vision, in order to align the "followers" to their strategy and reach their target.
Not All Types Of Followers are Good
As you may already know there are several types of followers and they will not bring the same return on investment to your company. Some may even be harmful to your company!
Please find the different types of Followers :
Follower "Do What I Tell" :
This is probably the type of person you imagine when I speak about followers. This type of person is just instructed to perform tasks and follow directions. This person will not take initiative and would be a good person to delegate. They will perform the tasks as robots.
The benefit of this type of follower is that they do what is asked and will not move from the track. The risk for the followers is to have work that is repetitive and mundane and lose their interest in the job after some time. This is where the leader needs to look for the development of his team to move him to the Follower Leader that we will see now.
This type of follower is actually a double edge type of follower, either it brings the highest value to the organization or the opposite. Let me explain more in detail.
Follower "Leader" Positive:
If the Follower Leader is working as a sub-leaders toward the organization's goal, he will be very valuable. He will bring value by challenging the proposition of the management, participating in the decision, and bringing solutions to the table. These followers would be very motivated and will thrive in the company to bring the highest value. As you may already have understood, this is the highest return on investment type of follower. As this person will bring new ideas, will takes initiative, and build stronger tasks with higher value. They may even optimize the way of doing things.
Follower "Leader" Negative:
On the opposite, if you have a "follower" Leader that is in disagreement with the vision of the organization. He may work for his own interest and perform tasks that are opposite to the requirements. Even worst, if this person thinks their idea is better than the leader, they may influence others to follow their vision which is biased compared to the vision of the organization. This type of follower needs to be identified as soon as possible and controlled to avoid any harm to the company. As you have already understood, this person is sabotaged and has a negative value as they act in opposition to the organization's interests.
Passive "Non-Followers" :
We all have met this type of person. They are in the team but are not making any effort to perform any tasks. This is the typical lazy member of the organization that has the chance to be paid for not performing any tasks. They bring no value to the organization, but at least they are not sabotaging the project. This type of person needs to be motivated to bring value to the organization by the leader.
How To Pass From Follower to Leader
As you may have already experienced in your organization, you have to demonstrate your value to grow in the company. The best way to do so is to be the Follower Leader which brings great insides and elements to the table. It is not because you are a follower that you should not bring input and your own opinion to the solution.
The followers need to raise their interests in the challenges and interact with the leaders to optimize the solutions proposed but also challenge them to make sure this is the best way of doing so. You need to move from a passive Follower or Follower "do what I tell" to a Follower Leader which will bring value to the team and the organization.
This is part of the elements you need to increase your executive presence but also start building your way of thinking in a safe environment (your team) to grow your leadership and understanding of the challenges of the company. Then you can start to build your team vision for your team members and start from operational thinking to grow to strategic thinking.
As a follower, you learn the culture of the company, its value, and the direction/ vision. Growing in the company you will take more leadership and be followed while you are following other leaders. Actually, all leaders are actually followers of other leaders, the CEO is not the top leader, as he has also to reply to the board of directors that will instruct the direction and vision to follow.
Aurelien MANGANO – Purposeful Career Coach - DevelUpLeaders
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