Imagine you are on a walk or hike on narrow trail, do you prefer to be the lead? or do you prefer to follow? Perhaps you prefer to lead when you know the route, or maybe when you don’t know the route! You may like to follow more when you just want to relax and enjoy the view. In a recent hike on Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore, we got into miles of Wild Radish blooming. The plants were not only extensive (and invasive) they were tall: waist, shoulder and over your head height. It was a great opportunity to ask…when to lead and when to follow.
There is something about having wild radish slap you on the legs, then shoulders and face that makes you reflect on when to lead and when to follow. At one point, I said…why don’t you go out front so you can see this amazing view of flowers over the ocean. Further along, someone said…I need a break from flowers in my face. One person even commented…do you mind going ahead of me, I don’t like the way being out in front feels on my legs in shorts.
Together we took turns as leaders and followers.
Leadership development is a major part of professional development training. Topics can include culture change, communication skills, supervision techniques, and strategic thinking strategies. When was the last time you took a class in followership?
Good leaders need good followers. What does it take to be a good follower?
- Judgement– Know when to follow and when to challenge the leader. Follow because you trust the leader to show and find the way. Challenge the leader when your instincts and intellect tell you there are risks or perhaps better ways.
- Diligence– Good followers have a strong work ethic and are motivated to complete the task as the leader shows the pathway forward.
- Competence– Know your strengths, the strengths of others and how to work together to achieve the best outcomes.
- Honesty– Be willing to ask powerful questions. Where are we going? What is our purpose? What will be different if we get there? What do you need from me to help us get there?
- Courage– Courage to trust the leader and to follow. Courage to trust your own strengths and to say “I’ll follow you” and not feeling lesser for the role of follower. Courage to trust your strengths and say…”I’d like to try leading on this one, I think I know the way”.
- Loyalty– Recognizing the greater purpose and goal of the leader. Aligning with purpose and goals gives motivation for dedication and loyalty.
Perhaps you’d like to try being a follower on a local trail.
“I know this trail and can’t wait to show you one of my favorite spots”- (Judgement). “This is one steep climb and you have a fast pace. I’m going to keep up with you”- (Diligence). “You seem to know how to navigate this cliff side trail, I’d like to follow in your footsteps.”- (Competence). “That looks a little too dangerous to climb down that way, I think I see a safer way to get around this rock slide.”- (Courage). “I know we almost there and I’m getting tired but I’m sticking with you to the top of the mountain”- Loyalty.
Enjoy your hike. Tell me what you found out about yourself as a follower!