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Home » Leadership

Be a great follower like this…

Submitted by on Wednesday, 31 October 2012No Comment

We love to focus on our leaders, but what does it take to be a great follower? This post follows up from our introduction to leadership and hopefully gives an insight into what it takes to be a great follower. But first, what does a leader want from his or her follower?

What leaders want

how to be a great followerLeaders want their followers to be contributing Head, Heart and Hand. We explain this in more depth here but bottom line:

Head is Thought. We want our followers to be thinking critically and creatively about the problems, opportunities and threats facing our business.

Heart is Commitment. We want our followers to be emotionally engaged in their work. We want them to care.

Hand is action. We want our followers to act – to execute on our company’s strategy, to deliver projects, and to take initiative.

What leaders get…

If the above sounds reasonable enough (believe me it’s rare for any of us to be engaged on all three counts at the same time), let’s have a look at what leaders get. Here’s a great matrix describing ‘follower types’ from Robert E Kelley’s In Praise of Followers. Have a look:

How to be a great follower

You’ll see that the x and y axes correspond to the Head (Critical Thinking) and Hand (Participation) concepts from the engagement factors listed above. So what kind of followers do we get?

If both critical thinking and participation is low we get Sheep – those who neither think much nor do much. Increase participation and the follower becomes a Yes Person – someone who doesn’t think much but will run around busily nonetheless. If critical thinking is high but participation is low, we get Alienated Followers – these people want to contribute more effectively but can’t. And if both critical thinking and participation are high – we get Effective Followers.

But how can we be effective as a follower without any guidance?

Want to be more effective as a follower? Here’s what you can do…

As followers, multi-decade research in over 30 countries has told us that we want our leaders to:

1. Model the Way

2. Inspire a Shared Vision

3. Challenge the Process

4. Enable Others to Act, and

5. Encourage the Heart

As followers, we can lead upwards by focussing our leaders on elements on these 5 practices (the elements again are described in more depth here).

By collaborating more effectively in this way, we can avoid the ignominy of being a Sheep, Yes Person, or Alienated Follower and ascend to the level of Effective Leader!


Talent Technologies offers The Leadership Challenge training programme. If you would like full programme details please contact us here


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