Being a Follower Is Just as Important as Being a Leader - Lean in Canada

“Followership, like leadership, is a role and not a destination.”
~ Michael McKinney

Being called a follower is never a good thing. Or is it? As business professionals, we’re constantly being encouraged to strive for a leadership role. In fact, it’s expected. I know for me, it was a difficult concept to grasp — especially because I naturally lean towards a leadership role. “The label “excellent follower” can be a backhanded compliment… There is something of a stigma to followership skills.”

However, at a recent Lean In Canada event, speaker Samantha Hurwitz, Co-Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of FliPskills and Co-Author of Leadership is Half the Story, discussed the merits of followership.

“The lack of awareness and understanding of followership skills results in many capable people losing their jobs or getting pushed aside. In fact, I was almost a victim of that same fate.”
~ Samantha Hurwitz, Leadership is Half the Story

The fact is that in organizations everybody is both a leader and a follower. And in order to function as a team or reach organizational success, positive followership is not only important — it is essential.

According to Samantha, positive followership has tremendous benefits on an organization, including output quality and performance. She explains that “everything is two-way, everything is built on the idea that businesses have to be dynamic and agile, not hierarchical and resilient.”

“[Good followers] support and aid the leader when he or she is doing the right thing, and stand up to the leader—having the courage to let the leader know when he or she is doing something wrong or headed in the wrong direction.”
~ Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., Associate Dean of the faculty at the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.

Samantha argued that in order to be a good leader, you have to be a strong follower. A positive follower displays particular traits that enable them to grow professionally, including:

• judgement
• work ethic
• courage
• discretion
• loyalty

I know for many of us, using the term follower is out of our comfort level – especially after working tirelessly in our careers to be seen as leaders. Let’s not look at the word followership as a derogatory word and instead, embrace its merits as a position of influence and courage.

About the author: Mishka Alarcon is a B2B marketing professional and blogger. She enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, business, travel and fitness.

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