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In Your Business Are You A Leader Or A Follower?


Every business needs leaders and followers. Contrary to common belief, it’s not leaders that shape followers, but supportive followers that shape leaders. So you may be wondering are some people, naturally great leaders and followers?

The obvious answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re all good as leaders or followers even when it’s our preference. By being a ‘natural’ just means it comes more naturally to us, not that we have perfected the skill.

There is a lot to learn about being a supporting follower and a successful leader which we look at in this article.

Leaders and followers are entwined and neither get very far without the other. It’s very much a symbiotic relationship.

What Does A Successful Leader Do?

Lead by example

A leader must always lead by example, and this is called ‘walking the talk’. For example, leaders are usually the first to arrive and the last to leave for just about everything from training sessions to meetings. They must show commitment and consistency to get the same attitude from those who follow them.

Communicate Clearly

There can never be confusion in a leader’s message as that will divide loyalty among followers. Doubt will set in when there is a lack of direction, or there are mixed messages about what is happening or what action is required.

Before meeting with a group, the leader will work out what they want to articulate and then they will write their speech and practice the delivery a few times first on their own and then again rehearse it with a couple of trusted advisors. Feedback is then given all leaders need and want honest feedback.


Honing the message until it is comprehensible and coherent without contradiction is the goal of all successful leaders. You’ll see this in action with State leaders and politicians, even when there is a catastrophic event, leaders won’t rush to speak to the nation, they first communicate with their advisors and then craft a speech avoiding ad-lib communication.

Maintain A Healthy Ego

Leaders need to be self-managing, self-driven and self-assured. A healthy ego gives leaders the confidence to get on with it, and they will push themselves further than anyone else would or could. This is not to say what great leaders do is without direction from management and mentors.

Leaders get instruction, encouragement and check in regularly to make sure they are on the right track in much the same way as sportspeople, and business professionals seek reassurance.

Have a Genuine Interest in People

There is no escaping the need for people love as a leader. Being humble, empathic and at times, humorous is all part of the role of promoting teamwork and team building.

Leaders must have a genuine interest in people. They need to show followers they care as well as find out what motivates them to earn their trust.

What are the traits of a supportive follower? says with followers there would be no leaders. Effective followers influence leaders.

Being a follower is not being passive, it’s an active role and followers use many of the same traits of leadership including:

  • Take direction and instruction
  • Work independently
  • Show initiative
  • Work with common goals
  • Respect common values and organisational objectives
  • Be a team player
  • Value authority

Healthy Respect for Followers

While leaders still get the most praise, being a follower is an important role in the business as it is in sport and other organisations, like the military. For example, imagine how a game will play out if the two opposing soccer teams were without a captain and the plays failed to follow the game plan? It is the team that understands the strategy, takes instructions from the leader and works well together that wins.


In business, leaders will always get more praise. However, the appreciation of followers is heightening. No longer are they perceived negatively as ‘yes-people’, or ‘sheep’. Hiring people who don’t aspire to be leaders yet can take direction, work independently and show initiative is, in fact, critical and likely improve the company’s overall performance.

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