If You Want to Be a Good Leader, Learn to Follow

Leadership seems to be a hot topic and key word in today’s business world. Going through college there are numerous leadership courses available and often required of business students. Some say that leadership is an intrinsic skill, while others believe that leadership is considered a “soft skill” that can be developed throughout the course of your career.

Chances are you want to advance in your career and one of the prerequisites to do so is having good leadership skills. You can be a leader in a variety of aspects throughout your life, including, but not limited to: CEO of a Fortune 500 company, quarterback of your college football team and even as a leader of a church group. Regardless of your leadership experience, these skills are always highly regarded, which explains the multitude of articles detailing how you can become a better leader.

Similar to the different experiences that leaders have, one common trait that all leaders share is the ability to inspire people to follow them. A captain of a team inspires his or her teammates to win the game just as a CEO inspires his or her employees to exceed their annual sales goals. Without the right leadership skills, these individuals would have no one to support them. As a result, the most important thing for a leader to learn and understand his how to be a good follower.

Although it may seem counter intuitive, learning how to follow will greatly benefit your leadership skills. Just as a sales or marketing person must know his or her audience, for a leader to be effective, he or she needs to understand what motivates and how to motivate the team. In an article for CNBC make it, Deepak Chopra has three things leaders must do to master the art of “followership” to become a better leader.

Understand Your Leader’s Intent

When the leader at your office (i.e., your manager) gives you an assignment at work, you can show that you fully understand what they’re asking of you by reiterating your intent, according to Chopra. When asking questions about what they expect, they might go into further detail or even change their expectations which should remove any ambiguity about the assignment. When you completely understand what is expected of you in completing the assignment, you will be able to confidently complete it.

Further, you can get a better understanding of your manager’s work and leadership style. This will allow you to better meet his or her expectations with various assignments. However, when developing your own leadership style and traits, it is important that to remember that what works for one person (your manager) might not work for you.

Speak Up…When the Time Is Right

Have you ever been in a meeting and not contributed even though you thought you had a good idea? I have and you probably have too. According to Chopra, “As a follower, speaking out at the most appropriate time will help gain supporters of your own.” However, it is important to consider how you speak up instead of doing so for the sake of it.

If you aren’t comfortable with speaking up in front of others, you can share your feelings with your manager in private instead of a group setting. Once you get comfortable expressing your opinions you will be able to do so more often.

Develop a Network

A common misconception about networking is that it is only important during the job search, but once you get a job, it stops. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Throughout your entire career networking is one of the constants. Networking doesn’t have to always be in a professional setting, either. While it is commonly associated with professional development, you may gain important friendships along the way. By continually networking, your boss/leader will gain more confidence as you will be able to help with new business development opportunities and be an advocate for the business.

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