Go into a bookstore and ask for a book on leadership, and they will point you to an entire section wherein they keep the tomes highlighting the leadership styles and practices of Jack Welsh, Attila the Hun, Ulysses S. Grant, and hundreds of other supposedly sagacious leaders of yore. Now some of these hundreds were, indeed, great leaders in their time, but their styles are of little use to the reader wanting to become a better leader in their 21st Century organization.
Then, ask for a book on followership, and they will inevitably point you to the section on philosophy and religion; or, in many of today’s bookstores, the section on New Age thinking. But if you stop and consider for just a moment, you will realize that it is followers who empower leaders; and without the former, the latter would be but lone silhouettes standing on a hill with their arm outstretched, pointing in a direction they’re not really sure of. Just because you have a title on your door doesn’t make you a leader – as so many people discover when selected for their first leadership position. Remember, if you look over your shoulder and they’re not there, you’re not leading.
So, if followers empower leaders, they must, by their very nature, have responsibilities as well. Should they abdicate those responsibilities by being swept along with the flow of those others who do not consider what is needed, or where they are going? Isn’t that how Lemmings wind up going over cliffs? Or should they question and test the leader until they, the followers, are satisfied that the leader has their best interests in mind. Blindly going where a leader points will often take you into that morass I referred to yesterday. Followers therefore have responsibility primarily for their own actions. Will I follow, or won’t I? Will I offer my voice to the leader’s program or not? Is the leader on a track that is right for me?
But a follower, as one of the group, must also bear responsibility for the needs of others; for by following the leader, they are setting an example for other members of the group, many of whom may simply be responding to their herd instinct. You must think critically, and critical thinking requires you to put your emotions aside. Like and dislike should not enter the equation. Emotion, like the herd instinct, will only steer you into untenable places. It’s the old adage, “Think before you act.” Note that it doesn’t say “feel” before you act or “just move along” before you act. Thinking logically can sometimes produce answers your emotive self doesn’t like. Are you a strong enough, engaged enough person to act on logic and not emotion?
In other words, what kind of follower are you?