Even as leaders, we all have bosses. Perhaps, it is a Vice-President. Perhaps, it is the CEO. Perhaps, it is the Board of Directors.
To move our companies forward, we need to be good (but not mindless) followers to our good bosses.
Support the Boss
The success of any organization requires that everyone is rowing in the same direction. So, our job as followers is to ensure that we devote ourselves to following and supporting the direction in which our boss is taking us. This means supporting their key initiatives and doing what is required to further the goals and objectives of our boss.
Make the Boss Better
As followers, we also need to make our bosses better. This comes in many different forms. First, we need to make our boss look good especially in the eyes of his or her boss. This ensures that our relationship is strong with our boss – we have his or her back. This is good for the company because it leads to the alignment as discussed above. And it is good for us, because we stay in our boss’s good graces which leads to job security.
Further, we need to have the courage to speak our minds, disagree, and stand up if we feel something is wrong. But, if a decision goes against us, we must then be the good follower and sit down and focus on doing everything we can to ensure that the decision works out well for the company.
We also need to support our boss in areas where they are weak. We can offer to take on projects or tasks that we can do more easily than our boss. In many cases, we (and our fellow co-workers) need to be the yang to our boss’s yin, ensuring that all the vital tasks are completed to make the business successful.
Swallow Our Pride
To be a good follower, we need to be humble and follow our boss’s lead and decisions even when we disagree with them.
I have personally failed at this part of followership countless times. In all those cases, I was sure that I was right in doing things differently than my boss. The result of my lack of humility was discord and a lack of alignment in the organization and a serious dent in my relationship with my boss.
But, I have learned. The following anecdote shows the benefits of swallowing our pride and being a good follower:
The decision involved a large investment in a new production technology that could give us a significant competitive advantage. My boss was wise and did not give his views until everyone else had spoken. Before he spoke, I had argued passionately against the investment as too expensive and a distraction from our core business. In the end, my boss decided to move forward with the investment and put me in charge of the project. Having learned my lesson, I responded that I would do everything I could to make the investment successful.
In the end, through my team’s hard work and dedication, the investment paid off spectacularly. In this instance, I had been short-sighted and just plain wrong to argue against the investment. But, I saved myself and helped move the company forward through my followership.
Good followership also requires that we know when to unfollow. If our boss and/or our company are doing things that are illegal or unethical, then we need to raise the red flag and speak out. If this fails, then we need to leave our boss and company and find another leader to follow.