Being a Good Follower

June 30, 2015

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Most leadership books and teaching centers on being the top guy; the number one in the organization.

I recently read a refreshingly different perspective. Creative Followership: In the Shadow of Greatness centers on influence, while not being the top guy.

Jimmy Collins retired as the President of Chick-fil-A restaurants. He was a great leader to many. But, he knew his role was to serve the founder and chief visionary leader, Truett Cathy. Together they built a successful organization which is seen as a model for business around the world, in both style and substance.

His philosophy on leadership is different than most. Rather than considering how to be the best number one and always looking to climb the ranks, he knew he could succeed by being a successful follower.

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He gives a few principles which are equally powerful for both leaders or followers.

Collins gives 4 Principles he would use in choosing whom to follow. The summaries in parenthesis are my own:

  1. I will not work for someone who is a lesser person than myself. (Character)
  2. I will only work for someone I can respect, look up to, and learn from – someone who can help me become a better person. (Potential for Growth)
  3. I will only work for someone who is building or growing something. (Purpose coupled with Results)
  4. I will only work for someone who will let me express myself and make decisions, and who will value my input. (Team Player and Secure with other views)

These principles have several layers of application.

If you are a leader, co-ordinator, or even a parent, be this type of person others would want to follow.

If you are not a number one, which most of us are not, these help us consider how to successfully influence the team and its goal by being a good follower. Even if you are not thrilled with your boss at the moment, how you follow and influence can have a tremendous impact. Collins speaks at length on this topic in the book.

I have said for years, I believe good leaders start as successful followers.

There can only be so many number one leaders. This book gives such a different flavor to the whole leadership discussion and is refreshing in its content. I feel like this book has the potential to reach a larger segment of the population. Numerically, there are far more followers than leaders.

One does not need to be a number one to contribute to success and have a major influence on people’s lives.

Leadership is not a matter of title, but of character and influence.

Photo credit: Le figurine via photopin (license)

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God