The follower’s tale

June 5, 2022

To follow well is an act of profound and selfless leadership.

The follower’s role in the success of any organisation is often poorly appreciated and significantly misunderstood. It is never just to do the job and go home; it is never just to do the leader’s bidding and get paid; and it is never to be unnoticed and just to be a good team player.

To follow well is to serve the needs of the moment, of our colleagues and to represent the best of ourselves. To follow is to endorse, to hold fast and to be loyal. It is also to guide, mentor and encourage. The servant follower is the backbone, armour and lifeblood of an organisation. The follower’s contribution is not always noticed in crowded noisy airless spaces, but the follower’s inspiration is real and solid, and essential to the very essence of being a team where together we achieve so much more than we can achieve alone.

We can read so much about leadership, but it is the follower we should read most about. We are all, at some level, followers and we all have this extraordinary role to play.

On a universal scale, one human’s contribution is barely a pixel in the film of our world. However, we are each of us the polished pieces of glass in a mosaic, all of us part of the whole and all reflective, colourful and important. On our own we may feel small, inconsequential and (perhaps) lacking purposefulness, but the follower we become allows us to be the person who plays our part in revealing the whole picture. The picture only becomes important and valuable because we are the pieces that make it so.

I have had the privileged opportunity to observe so many wonderful teams, but I have only recently started to notice properly the role of followership and how followers let our leaders succeed.

To follow is to know you have a part to play; so play your part and play it like it really matters to you. Help others play their part too. Stay in the moment and feel what needs to be done. Support those who ask for your help, but especially offer your support to those who do not know how to ask you for your help.

Protect and promote the ambition and values of your team. Be an advocate for colleagues whose voice is not being heard. Find it in your heart to speak up for your needs and always challenge what does not feel right. Do not live with regret, but be at peace with your efforts. We cannot make things perfect, but we can make them better. We can always makes things better.

Bring your ideas forward without conditions. Listen to the ideas of others without conditions. Encourage those who lead us to listen, to pause and to reflect. Be a guide for their thoughts and let your thoughts guide them.

To be a follower like this is to know we have made our difference. Together we are the interlocking pieces that form the foundation on which our team’s success is built.

The follower is needed more than we can ever imagine. The follower serves all of us. We should ensure those who follow know how valued they are, how needed they are and how much loved they are too.

Take care. Paul xx

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