The very title may have caused a feeling of unease as it captures the ego-annihilating idea that, essentially, anyone can become a great leader, especially those who have –at some point in their careers – been followers. You may wonder –with a degree of quasi-justified annoyance –, “But, how?”
In a nutshell, one of the keys to being a great leader is to practice good followership. This entails –but is, by no means, limited to – being able to connect with one’s followers, identify with them and using any prior follower experience to create a leadership model that is premised on driving performance and growth. A crucial ingredient in this recipe is having a long memory; emerging leaders should endeavor to recall what motivated them as followers to become leaders, what set them back and how their bonds with their peers affected their journey.
A tripartite approach to great leadership
Be a follower before you become a leader. People with a silver-spoon in their mouths or a groundbreaking idea forming at the crack of dawn are scarce. Most aspiring leaders have to painstakingly work their way up corporate echelons and by doing so they learn valuable lessons about what delivers results and what does not. In other words, they have to follow well before they lead well.
Learn to lead from your followers. At the core of this principle is the willingness to find effective ways to connect and gain insight into your followers. Successfully motivating the workforce is an uphill climb; thus unless a leader manages to guarantee their followers’ compliance, the journey will become incrementally more challenging. Ultimately, what helps in this effort is for a leader to perceive themselves as followers so they can learn about and from their people.
Be open to adjusting your leadership mindset. Unfortunately, several leaders have learnt –the hard way- that in leadership there are no one-size-fits-all approaches. Working with different followers means that adopting a fixed leadership style is unlikely to lead to growth. Therefore, one’s leadership approach should always be the object of ongoing review and reevaluation. After all, different methods regularly stall depending on who is asked to follow them and it is easier to change the process rather than the person who is expected to follow it through.
Following might be a slow learning curve, but it’s certainly worth the effort.