How to Use Your Strengths to be a Good Follower

At Leadership Vision, we implore our clients that no matter what their title, they can lead and be leaders. We believe that leadership is about influence, and everyone has influence.

Often this can be a paradigm shift for people who go through our core process with Strengths. Many believe that if they are not the ‘boss’ or in formal leadership roles, they are not leading.

What does that mean for followers? I want to add to this premise that followers also have a tremendous ability to influence others. If you can follow you can have influence, and if you can follow, you can help your organization out the same as when you are called to lead.

Early on in my career I did not have a good perspective on being a follower. I often questioned why leadership made decisions, without understanding they had a bigger perspective than I did. I could have been a better follower, and used my influence in ways that moved the organization forward.

How can we become better followers? How can we support our leaders and co-workers regardless of our title or position? In the book, “The Art of Followership,” Jon Howell and Maria Mendez provide a framework for effective followership. There are six things they argue for that will help all of us become better followers:

  1. Job knowledge and competence over work tasks
  2. Building collaborative relationships with coworkers and the leader
  3. Defending and supporting the leader in front of others
  4. Exerting influence on the leader in a confident and unemotional manner to help the leader avoid costly mistakes
  5. Showing a concern for organizational performance
  6. Showing a willingness to participate in organizational change

That is quite a list of things we can control and do to be better followers!

Here is how I try to use my Strengths to become better at those things:

  1. With Focus and Achiever working together I can make sure I do what I say I am going to do. If you routinely deliver at your organization, you will build credibility and trust with your boss and co-workers.
  2. Collaborative working relationships on teams are key for any organization. For me, I try and use Achiever and Woo to help me do this. Who do I need to connect with? How can I make sure they feel important and connected to whatever we are trying to do as a group?
  3. Defending and supporting our leader and Leadership Vision is something I try and do. The leader has to know they can trust that you have their back when they are not around. With the Strength of Significance, I can sense when things are important and worth doing. When our President, Brian, talks about the vision for our company going forward I try and pull out the most important parts of that vision and move it along in the areas I can influence.
  4. Great leaders need great advisors. Part of how I can become a better follower is to give great advice to our leader and do it unemotionally. This is something that is easier said than done, but I again try and rely on Woo to make sure my boss hears what I have to say, and use Focus to stay on topic until I think he has heard my advice.
  5. Having the Strength of Competition, which could easily be called, “Comparison,” allows me to constantly think about how we are doing as an organization and if we are moving ahead. Helping my boss and co-workers know when we land new clients and secure new business is a way I try and leverage Competition to show my concern and solutions for organizational performance.
  6. Being willing to change? This is probably the toughest part of being a great follower. With the Strengths of Achiever and Competition I have a hard time sitting still and being ok with where we are as an organization. I use those Strengths to set goals and measure performance that comes with change. It helps me to have a bigger perspective than just focusing on the day-to-day pains to get to new levels of performance.

How can you be a better follower?

These are easy questions that may help you rethink how you can you use your strengths and those six suggestions to be a better follower where you are.