There are many articles and books written about the qualities and attributes of exemplary leadership. Most focus on how great leaders lead and how they make a difference within organizations.
There has been less attention given to the qualities and attributes of the individuals that are led, the followers.
Leaders cannot be great leaders without the presence of great followers. Followers need qualities and attributes that make leading possible.
Organizations have many more followers than they do leaders. It may be fair to say, therefore, ineffective followers may be more of a handicap to an organization than ineffective leaders.
The combination of great leaders and great followers make for a great organization.
What qualities and attributes make great followers? Here are eight for starters:
1. They have developed a skill level from which the organization benefits - knowledge and skills pertinent to the organizations mission.
2. They set a higher standard of performance than is necessary to perform their job.
3. They are good at self management. They perform their functions with little intervention from leadership.
4. They think for themselves and work well within team environments.
5. They are critical thinkers whose knowledge and judgment can be trusted.
6. They take ownership of their own mistakes and have a high level of ethical standards.
7. They come to work to make a difference - for which they receive a paycheck rather than simply coming to work to collect a paycheck.
8. Effective followers are committed to the mission and vision of the organization in addition to the care of their own lives.
There are considerable implications of finding the right followers to lead. When the cost of making a wrong selection decision can be three to 18 times annual salary plus lost knowledge, customer confidence, lower follower morale and lost time the selection process is critical.
The very first step to accruing the right followers is to define what the expectations are for the function they will fill.
Besides the basic skills and knowledge needed, considerable thought must be given to the key results and key accountability for the job function. Specifically, the stakeholders (leaders and current followers) need to define the perfect follower for the specific function in the current organizational culture. The definition requires metrics as a tool for evaluating followers.
In order to add metrics you need to define quantifiable aspects for each of the key results and key accountability. For example:
- The stakeholders define the key results and key accountability
- A scale of 1-10 can be used to define the importance of each key result and accountability
- The stakeholders obtain consensus on the ranking creating a benchmark
- Each follower is then assessed and compared to the benchmark
- Great leaders get great followers
- Greater productivity and cooperation
- Higher follower morale
- Higher follower retention
- Greater leadership satisfaction
- Higher "Bottom Line"
- Greater return for the shareholders