Great followers are those who are engaged, independent and critical thinkers who contribute to making the best organizational decisions. But there is more than contributing ideas and creativity. They commit to the mission and team decisions. This means carrying out their assignment and engaging their creative problem-solving skills even when we may not fully agree with a team decision. This is true followership.
The perfect team is one in which all team members are committed to the same mission and acting in unison toward the success of that mission.
What attributes do these team members have?
1) Clarity of team mission and commander’s intent
2) Proactive in speaking up and contributing to team decisions
3) Commitment to the execution of those decisions
4) Quick to adjust to circumstances and change within the confines of the mission
5) Do their job well and take responsibility – no excuses or blaming
6) Clear and copious communication
7) Abide by group norms
How do you develop a culture of followership? Begin by being clear about the behaviors of followership – these are the same behaviors of an actively engaged person. Set clear expectations not just for roles and responsibilities, but for attitude and behavior. Then ask for commitment.
Remember, followership is ultimately about commitment to something beyond self. Commitment to the mission. Commitment to the team. Commitment to team decisions. It means setting aside your personal agenda and putting the team and mission first. You can’t get to commitment if you’re not asking for a clear commitment.
Developing your people must go beyond performance reviews. Coaching and challenging them to develop themselves as an engaged partner must be a leadership priority.
Above all do not tell people how to do things. Instead tell them clearly what you expect. Step back and challenge them to figure out how to do it. You will be surprised at the result. And, keep in the forefront of your mind all great leaders are great followers, and great followers can become great leaders.
See Leadership Influence: Work on Your Followership for part I of this essay.
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