You Won’t Be Your Best Leader Until You Do This

There is a lot of cultural emphasis on becoming and being a good leader. Additionally, there is discussion on how to develop others into good leaders. I have read so many books and blogs on leadership, and though much of it was really great content, the characteristics of good leadership are pretty standard across the board. However, there is one quality often overlooked regarding leadership. I believe that followership is as equally important. Followership is the act of mindful submission to authority. The purpose is to follow well, so you can lead well, when the time comes.

In the last decade, followership has been edged out of leadership. However, the truth is that learning how to follow is integral to learning how to lead. Without having been a successful follower; you will never be your best leader. It takes the experience and understanding of why followership is key to leadership to make you more than an average leader.

One of the first attributes I look for when choosing a new leader, is a history of successful followership. With experience in following, a new leader will possess a greater understanding of those they will lead. They will be much more likely to view those they will lead as valuable and not just another company “asset.”

I believe we are all called to fulfill the role of follower. In fact, I believe that our role as a follower establishes our ability to fulfill other roles (leader, spouse, parent) in healthy and effective ways. Before we address any other role, let’s consider the characteristics of a good follower.


Respect for the authority of those we are following, or working for, but also for those we interact with on a daily basis. There will be instances where we are placed under the authority of someone who does not lead well. The ability to remain respectful, and acknowledge authority, will develop our character. Experience under a poor leader will provide the opportunity to study ineffective leadership and avoid similar mistakes in the future.


Confidence in the person leading you and why you are following them. A confident follower knows where they stand and what they stand for. Confident followers are aware of their gifts and abilities. They understand how they contribute to the success of the team and their leader. Seasoned confidence is a vital characteristic for transitioning to a leadership role.


Difficult situations call for experience in knowing when to speak and how to do so. How you speak, and to whom you speak, is important. Tact is action, tempered by sensitivity and wisdom. Once a leader, the tactfulness will garner trust from those around you and trust is essential in order for others to follow.

Servant Hearted

As a follower, servanthood is not the bowing down to a tyrannical boss. Instead, servant hearted following is a decision to develop a character of humility and compassion, and a desire to serve the people you work for and with. A servant’s heart expresses genuine concern for others. A leader’s ability to serve those they lead requires the leader to have developed humility and compassion while they were a follower. When those under you experience your compassion and respect, they will be more willing to follow you and fulfill the mission.


John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Learning is a forever event. To lead is to always learn. Followers need to settle into their role as student. Being teachable means there is always potential to learn.

Even if you are already in a leadership role, it is never too late to learn followership. Become a good follower. If you work for someone, begin actively following him or her well. If you work for yourself, find someone who is beyond you in experience and wisdom, and put yourself under their authority.

Ultimately, the most important follower role that we will ever take on, is follower of Jesus. He is the definitive Follower; in that He laid aside His divinity and obediently followed God’s plan to the cross; so that we could follow Him into glory. When we enter into that follower role, everything changes. It is then that our expectations for what makes a great leader elevates to unimaginable levels.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
~ Philippians 2:5–8 ~

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