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Karin’s Leadership Articles

How to Build a Team of Courageous Followers

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 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.

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?

19 Comments

  1. Steve Borek

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

    Reply
  2. bill holston

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  3. Jim Ryan

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  4. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    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…..

    Reply
  5. Chery Schmidt

    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 :))

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  6. Terri Klass

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  7. Lolly Daskal

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  8. LaRae Quy

    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.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

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

      Reply
  9. Cory Bouck

    Followership is introduced and explored deeply in the first third of my new book, The Lens of Leadership. Check it out at Amazon, BN.com, or at http://www.corybouck.com

    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.

    Reply

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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