First a question – where are you as a leader? Do you have people reporting to you? Are you more senior and have people reporting to your people? Heck, do you have people reporting to other people who report to your people and so on? To have anyone reporting to you is a huge responsibility (and a gift if you ask me). This is great; it is what you want as a leader, people and responsibility. Yet, no matter how many levels of people report up to you, you yourself have a person that you report to as well.
Step one of effective leadership is being a good follower.
In one article I found, R.E. Kelly writes in the Harvard Business Review, “the traits of a good follower are nearly the same as the traits of a good leader. Effective followers: manage themselves well; are committed to the organization and to a purpose, principle, or person outside themselves; build their competence and focus their efforts for maximum impact; and are courageous, honest, and credible. Leader and follower are roles, not people. Both can be capable, ethical, and independent”.
In the book “The Art of Followership” the authors have a great term for us to consider, “Courageous Follower“. The courageous part is when the follower is strong enough to fully support the leader including constructively challenging the leader when necessary. As a leader do you not want your followers to challenge you in a constructive manner that is only looking out for what is best for you and your organization? Of course this is what any truly effective leader wants for his or her team.
As a good leader you can build the environment that supports good followers. The tenants of Servant Leadership connect here as well. Tell the truth to your people. Honor their gifts and abilities. Provide feedback with compassion. This builds the environment where your staff can be outstanding and courageous followers. As a leader and a follower, what can you do to assist your leader to be better? Same as from the leader to the follower: tell the truth, honor the person, and provide feedback with compassion. One can look at being a good follower and a good leader as a continuation of the same loop.
Simple. A good leader is a good follower. Remember we move together.