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The Essence of 'Followership'

PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- We've all heard that to be a great leader, we must be a great follower. So what qualities do all great followers have in common? They usually work in the middle of our organizations, want successful careers and have virtues that include restraint, modesty and tenacity.

They are not out to change the world, just to do a good job. They know their mission is important and want to do well every day.

So what does it take to be a great follower? First and foremost, let go of the ego. You can't listen if you think you know it all. Trust that your subordinates know their job and will inform you of issues. It may require you to drill down into process basics to fully understand. Avoid creating a hostile atmosphere.

It's very easy to blurt out "that's wrong," but don't take a forceful stand until you take the time to listen. Our folks are doing their best to get the mission accomplished and if they can't get it done the right way they may take questionable steps to make it happen due to urgency and tenacity.

With restraint you can gather information and learn the root cause. Be respectful and listen to their ideas. These ideas will probably be better than yours because they are where the work happens. Joseph Badaracco states in his book "Leading Quietly" that "moving at Internet speed is a bad mistake for people going in the wrong direction."

Success rests on small things, like having enough gauze to cover a wound. So follow their explanation to discover what tool they are missing or what managerial support they need, then provide it!

Being a great leader means being a great follower who genuinely listens. It's not a flashy job, just effective. It allows creativity and cooperative interactions to flourish, leading towards mission accomplishment and team satisfaction.