Many articles often publicize the types of qualities it takes to be a strong leader in the workplace, but not enough consideration is given to what it means to be an effective follower. If you’re asking yourself, why would I want to be a follower when I aspire to be a leader, keep reading because this article is still applicable to you! After all, in order to truly be a successful leader, you have to understand what it involves to manage a team. Being part of that team and recognizing how your role contributes to the success of the department, is a fundamental step in eventually being able to ascend into a position of leadership. Regardless, you don’t necessarily have to be in a leadership position to develop or demonstrate the traits that make a good leader.
In fact, here are 5 of the skills that make professionals effective followers and will take you far in your career, regardless of whether or not you aspire to be in a leadership role:
Independent critical thinking
Followers help a company succeed by uniting under a leader to help bring their goals to fruition. However, an effective follower should also try to create new opportunities and responsibilities for themselves by proactively thinking about problems or solutions independently. The more independent you are in managing your time and tasks, the more you will slowly build a sense of accountability for the work you produce. As a result, if you want to be seen as a reliable colleague or staff-member, it’s important that you maintain a sense of autonomy over your work.
Strong listening skills
Active listening is a soft skill that many professionals may take for granted in this technological age. However, sometimes it’s important to minimize your email, or put down the phone, and have a face-to-face conversation. Why? As an intent listener, you are better able to define objective/goals clearly, ask thoughtful questions, and provide useful input. In addition, good listeners communicate more directly, which may evade possibilities of miscommunication. In the end, an effective follower with strong listening skills may make fewer mistakes, which in turn can increase overall productivity across the board.
Work well collaboratively
How well your personality fits in with the team dynamic plays a critical role in your ability to have a voice in the workplace. For example, if you can openly and confidently share your point of view without undermining your teammates (or leader), this is one of the best ways to build trust and respect among your coworkers.
Motivation and drive
Good leaders encourage their followers to want to grow within the organization. Some ways an effective follower can show motivation and drive is by learning new skills, taking on new responsibilities, consistently meeting deadlines, and/or proactively achieving difficult goals. Therefore, an effective follower will not only demonstrate a strong work ethic, but will also show your capacity to succeed without the presence of a leader.
A working environment or team dynamic lacking creativity is one that can drastically impede progress. So, in order to be an effective follower, you should be willing to demonstrate your ability to think “outside the box” and offer a unique point of view to generate new ideas. Not only might this reflect positively on your leader, but it might also highlight your efficient use of creativity to get the job done.