Do Leaders Make Good Followers?

Jul 12, 2021 | Leadership, Management

Do leaders make good followers, and do followers make good leaders?

Many entrepreneurs get into business because they don’t want to (or can’t) work for anyone else.

They have either:

  • Always worked for themselves (I know many great entrepreneurs who started at age 16 and never stopped)
  • Or they cut their teeth working for someone else, and realized they were meant to be the owner of their own business

Entrepreneurs often start out with none or one employee. They then grind through the pains of startup. Because they have had to rely on themselves, many score low in “trust” (on the personality profiles I use). This manifests in having trouble letting go and entrusting others.

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This low trust is a liability, not only because owners don’t build up a highly empowered team, but also because they are reluctant to follow the ideas of their team.

Luckily this bad habit can be turned around.

One way to turn it around is to find opportunities to participate as a follower.

You can:

  • Join a nonprofit board that has a great leader (don’t get stuck under bad leadership)
  • Join a club (I belong to a men’s running club where the mission is fellowship. I am learning to enjoy running and to support others through the group’s leadership)
  • Join a peer group, which is a form of follower-ship (but more akin to fellowship)
  • Take advantage of other servant relationships (at the church, or in your own marriage and family)

Many employees are already good at this. For example, if you have the role of General Manager, you must be excellent at both: following your boss and leading your team.

Owners can become excellent at both once they realize what’s at stake.

Your Challenge: Applying followership to yourself and your new hires.
  1. As a business owner, assess your trust levels, and find opportunities to be a good follower both inside your firm and outside. Get outside help if this is holding you back.
  2. When hiring for important leadership roles in your firm, look for evidence in their past of both leadership and followership (sometimes known as Servant Leadership).

If you want to visit a hugely successful landscape company where the owner hired a CEO and now reports to him, join me at the Summer Growth Summit.