How To Be A Great Follower

How To Be A Great Follower

If your house is on fire, you want to know there’s someone calling the shots. More importantly, you pray for a team of strong, skilled, and courageous followers. My husband’s a firefighter, he knows the life and death importance of following well.

My friend, a Battalion chief leading the City’s firefighters, shares great stories of hiring for, and developing, great followers. Sure, he has a succession plan and builds leadership at every level.

But when the city’s burning, the character and skills of the followers are just as vital. Great leaders nurture followership. Great leaders know how and when to follow.

6 Ways To Be a Better Follower

Great leaders grow other leaders. They also nurture followership. As I look back over the years to the best followers on my teams, 6 characteristics stand out.

F – Focus

Focused energy. Passionate drive. Great followers focus on results and outcomes. They care deeply about their craft. They focus on the details and doing the best work possible.

O – Open to feedback and new ideas

Great followers have open hearts and minds. They want to improve and seek out feedback. They are open to people, change, and new ideas.

L – Loyal

Strong followers are loyal to the cause and to the team. They rise above drama and gossip and give folks the benefit of the doubt. They offer feedback from a place of deep concern. They’ll take one for the team.

L – Learning

Learning is second nature for great followers. They learn from experience, failure and success, introspection, and other people. They read books and seek out mentors. Learning is exciting and fun.

O – Offer Solutions and take initiative

Great followers care and solve problems. They turn expertise into creative solutions. They speak up and tell the truth.

W – Work as “We”

Great followers work well with others. They share best practices, workload, credit and feedback. They have each other’s backs.

What would you add? What makes a great follower?
Filed Under:   Career & Learning, Results & Execution
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

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What People Are Saying

Steve Borek   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Look around the room. Pick out someone that needs a mentor in followship and model the way.

letsgrowleaders   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Steve, fantastic suggestion.

bill holston   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Great. I’d say in many ways some of the same things that make great leaders: passion, humility, and boldness. Courage in being truthful, honest, pointing out problems without being negative, which is a real skill.

letsgrowleaders   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Bill, Beautiful list. I agree. The stuff that makes great humans is so important in both leaders and followers.

Jim Ryan   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

NICE. I’m stealing this. I would add committed to follow-through with team decisions even if you don’t agree with them and never complain or undermine.

letsgrowleaders   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Jim, thanks so much. I’m glad you can use it. Follow-through on decisions is a great add.

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Karin- a follower will become one day a leader. The follower who fails to respect leaders will suffer later from the same. A follower who lacks ambition to be a leader is behind the time. There is only one way: develop yourself to be a leader; else…..

letsgrowleaders   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Ali, Yes! Great following is such important training ground for great leading.

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   24 October 2013   |  

Karin- that is why I am proud to be a follower of you

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   24 October 2013   |  

Karin- O am proud to be your follower

Chery Schmidt   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Hey Karin, What a great way to start my day! I love this, do you mind if I borrow this! I have never seen anyone use follow in this manner before very creative. I do know that what ever you give always seems to come back.

Thanks for sharing Chery :))

letsgrowleaders   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Chery, Happy for you to use and share with attribution. Thanks!

Terri Klass   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Really fun and creative post, Karin!

I would add that a great follower is able to mold the feedback and ideas of others in a way that is comfortable and helpful to them. And that in essence empowers future leadership.

Being a great team player by participating and supporting others are also ways that great followers organically grow. The idea that “we are all in this together” is a motto I welcome whether I am leading or following.

letsgrowleaders   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Terri, Love the idea of molding feedback toward meaning. Thank you.

Lolly Daskal   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

I feel roles in life and leadership are always inter-changing to someone I am a leader, to others I am a follower.

The list of F O L L O W is good for both leaders and followers.

the bottom line for me is…
Did you put your heart in all that you do?
Did you come from a place of authenticity and compassion?
Did you move forward with the best you can be?

BE real, Be you. Be all heart.

letsgrowleaders   |   23 October 2013   |   Reply

Lolly, Exactly. We are always leading and following and morphing between roles… love your inspiring thoughts “be real.. be you…be all heart.”

LaRae Quy   |   26 October 2013   |   Reply

Wow, Karin. I loved this post! Now I understand why YOU have so many followers :-)

You make a great point when you say, “We’re all in this together.” It’s the camaraderie that acts as cement when things get tough or we hit a bump in the road. That is the true meaning of the word team…we follow one another.

Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend.

letsgrowleaders   |   26 October 2013   |   Reply

LaRae, Thanks so much for your kind words. I am glad I’m “in it” with you. Namaste.

Cory Bouck   |   30 October 2013   |   Reply

Followership is introduced and explored deeply in the first third of my new book, The Lens of Leadership. Check it out at Amazon,, or at

Business titans like Malcom Forbes, Sam Walton, Fred Smith, AG Lafley, and Dave Thomas all practiced followership relentlessly as they progressed and built their world. I would love to dialogue with others on the power of followership.