We don’t just need Great Leaders; we also need Great Followers

Can you name some current political leaders who are held in high esteem?  I think most people would find this difficult because by and large political leaders are held in very low esteem.  It is commonplace in the media and on the internet to hear people criticizing government ministers for their incompetence.  They are blamed when they act and they are blamed when they fail to act.  They just cannot win.  In most Western countries we have become cynical about our political leaders and give them no credit for positive achievements but plenty of criticism for things that do not work out.  The media reports everything that goes wrong and little of what goes right. We bemoan the lack of great leaders.  Where are the Roosevelts and Churchills now?  And it is not just in politics that we perceive a lack of leadership – leaders in the community, in business, in the arts and elsewhere all face fierce scrutiny and censure when found wanting.

But it is very hard for a leader to lead if his followers don’t want to follow.  Once someone is appointed leader they deserve support and encouragement for some extended period.  Of course we must hold leaders to account; their actions must be subject to external review and they must be replaced if necessary – but we have to give them a chance to succeed.  We seem to have lost the art of followership.  What does a good follower do?  They

  • Listen to the leader to understand their goals, objectives and reasoning
  • Give their bosses support and encouragement
  • Offer to help when they can
  • Give the leader the benefit of the doubt – at least for a while
  • Make constructive suggestions to improve performance
  • Avoid cynicism, gossip or backbiting
  • Encourage others to join the team and support the leader

    If you are the boss of a business you want that kind of follower.  Someone who is loyal and supportive, someone who takes on responsibility and does things, and someone who will make positive suggestions when they point out where they think improvements can be made.

    Think about the diehard fans of a major football team.  They follow the team through thick and thin.  Even when the team is playing poorly they remain loyal and show up at matches to give support.  Why can we not extend some of this sporting support to our leaders in politics, business and the community?

    What level of support are you giving to your leaders?  Are you a good follower – or a cynic?




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