Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Art of Followship

Plenty has been written and spoken on how to be a good or great leader. One key aspect I believe is often missed in teaching people leadership principals is the principal of Followship. The art of followship is about learning to be a good leader by first being a good follower of leaders. There are several key points to learning leadership through the art of followship.

Find a good leader

Obvious I know but it is integral to learning good leadership habits. Followship learning operates on the principal that more is ‘caught than taught.’ Find a good leader and stick to them like glue. Be a sponge and absorb.

Be observant

Followship is about learning how a leader leads. How do they make decisions, treat people, respond to problems and react to changed circumstances. It’s an invaluable Leadership 101 subject.


My experience is that many potential leaders want the power and position now. Fortunately leadership is a maturing process not a knowledge one. It is about serving your time in followship learning the craft. Where many people go wrong is they want to skip a few rungs in the ladder by taking short cuts. They might look good on the outside but the inside is empty.

Followship has a cost

Learning leadership this way has a cost in time, ego and pride. Serve your apprenticeship in following well and the opportunities will open without you having to create them. One of my favourite leadership quotes by Jeff Bezos is “You earn a reputation by doing the hard things well.” You gain your leadership credentials in followship by doing the hard yards.

Even great leaders follow

One thing followship tells you are that great leaders follow too. Most great leaders themselves were nurtured by someone else and still have a system of accountability around them. The lesson you learn to be a great leader is to deal with pride. Great leaders will have a succession plan. Poor leaders are insecure and consequently don’t raise up other leaders.

Final notes

If you are an aspiring leader you need to seek someone you admire and stick to them like glue.
If you want to raise strong leaders in your organisation, company or church then you need to identify potential in your group and then apprentice them to yourself. Make yourself to be available to counsel, teach and be watched as you lead. There maybe a cost to you in the short term but you will reap the rewards of your efforts.