The Fine Art of Followership // Positively Speaking // Mark Wilson

If you want to be a good leader, start by being a good follower!

Sometimes, people want to lead before they learn how to follow. Non-followers make terrible leaders – they are self absorbed, and don’t deal very well with people in general.

Occasionally, folks come to me and offer their services in a leadership capacity. My usual response is “you can start your leadership journey by jumping in and helping others. The best leaders know how to follow well.”

Sometimes, they walk away with a sniff. “I would be happy to be up front leading — but how dare you ask me to serve behind the scenes? Aren’t you aware of my tremendous gifts and abilities?”

Yes — And I’m also aware of an over inflated ego.

Samuel Brengle graduated from college and signed up as an officer in the Salvation Army. He was excited about his new role and looked forward to providing visionary leadership for the cause.

He was dismayed when on his first day at work, the very first assignment was to polish a room full of boots –filthy, worn, ugly, scuffed up boots!

“I can’t believe they’re doing this to me!” he grumbled, “Don’t they know that I’m here to lead? I am an officer for heaven’s sake! I’ve just graduated with honors! Why on earth would they give me such a crummy task? I didn’t apply to be a servant!”

Then — the truth dawned on him. In order to lead well, he had to be a good follower. There is no job too small for a great leader. If you think a job is “beneath” you — that shows you are not yet ready for true leadership. You earn the right to lead through service.

The best leaders are servants. Their job is to lift up those around them with a “whatever it takes” attitude.

Many misunderstand the nature of great leadership. They think it’s about gaining rights and privileges. Actually, the real story is the opposite — the higher you go in leadership, the more you give up your rights and privileges!

Many books have been written on leadership. It seems as if the business gurus have been working overtime lately. Unfortunately, I have not seen too many books on the fine art of followership.

I wonder how much better our organizations would run if every executive polished boots first and read books on followership! Don’t you think that would make a fairly significant difference?

Genuine leadership is proven through humility and sacrifice. It is an unswerving dedication to a higher cause — with a focus on making the world a better place for others.

If you’re asking, “What’s in it for me?”, you are not a leader. Do you want to become a better leader?

Start serving! Start helping! Start following!

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