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Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.

 

If you’re not a good follower you won’t be a good leader

Flowing straight out of “Servanthood is Greatness” is the idea of followership and the principle that to be a good leader you need to be a good follower. And, like “Servanthood is Greatness” this idea seems counter-intuitive.

Leaders aren’t followers. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Good followers follow good leaders. Don’t good leaders need to be different from followers? Now there is truth in all this. But we’re talking about those who simply cannot do other than lead. Those who refuse to submit to others. Those who must be in the position of power and authority. Those who cannot follow and cannot follow well.

If you cannot follow then you cannot lead.

And if you’re tracking with us from “Servanthood is Greatness” then you will see why that must be so, because it follows straight on.

If the heart of leadership is servanthood then obviously this will mean that the raw material that makes you a good leader will also make you a good follower. Followers serve, submit, obey, take orders, complete tasks, help the team and contribute to the objective. And if you can’t do those things then you can’t lead well.

Now I’m not suggesting that a leader should have no desire to lead but only to follow. Part of what makes a leader a leader is the desire to take a group of people towards a preferred future. What I’m saying is that if you are a person who simply cannot submit, cannot align yourself to another, cannot follow well, then you won’t have the necessary skills and characteristics to lead well.

When a leader works under another leader they must learn and display a number of key qualities: patience, ability to influence, negotiation, compromise, faithfulness, diligence, perseverance, among many others. Working under a leader you don’t respect, admire, trust or like is a mark of maturity. Those who can’t or are unwilling to shouldn’t lead.

A final reason why to be a leader you must be a good follower is because the people you lead will, to a certain extent, take their cues from you. Obviously the extent of this phenomenon will vary from person to person. But you will model for those who follow you how they are to treat you by how you treat the person over you. You will model how they are to act when they disagree with you by how you react when you disagree with those who lead you. You will model how to speak about a leader you respect and one you don’t respect by how you talk about your leaders. And so on. And you want your team to act a certain way towards you and you want them to speak about you to each other in a certain way, particularly when they find you hard to work with. And you will need to model this for them. Treat your leaders the way you would wish to be treated.

Good leadership requires good followership.

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