Wanted leaders, wanted candidates with proven leadership abilities, wanted star performers….these are common phrases one comes across in job postings or any requirement for resources. Seldom, if ever, we have seen a requirement that says “wanted a good follower”.
One often wonders, can we do only with good leaders? Can a country be run by more than one king, or a military with only generals and no soldiers? On the one side we say, Indian cricket team can’t perform well as it had 5 captains in the side, and on the other we scout for only leadership material. This brings us to one fundamental question; “Can we do only with Leaders or do we need good followers to make good leaders?”
Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In order to be a leader, a man must have followers”.
We need a leader to give direction. An effective leader is someone who creates a vision, which means to give value to things being done today that people otherwise wouldn’t see the point of doing. However, to make that vision successful, that leader needs a team of good followers. People who can understand his vision, make it their own mission, and execute it exactly as visualized by the leader. The success of a leader, hence, is only as much feasible as the quality of his followers. Consider this : “Was Taj Mahal built by Shah Jahan or was it just his dream ?” It was the skill and aptitude of his engineers, designers and workers who converted that dream into reality.
Research shows that leadership only contributes about 20% to the success or failure of an organization. Followers contribute 80% to an organization’s effectiveness. Followers are a lot closer to the situation and know first-hand the consequences of a decision. They have to keep the leader informed on what is working and what isn’t. Leader depends on his follower to tell him the ugly truths. And all this needs a considerable amount of skills. However a bulk of management development program is devoted to leadership and practically none to maximize the quality of followership. It is, therefore, important that we acknowledge, appreciate and give due respect to the role of a follower in the making of a successful leader and a successful organization.
There is no denying the fact that we need leaders who can get people going in a hurry on things that matter, take the initiative and direct others towards achieving a common goal. But to make these leaders effective and to find and groom future leaders, we have to focus on today’s followers. For, though there are people who are good followers but do not make good leaders, or even want to be one; it is rare to find a good leader who was not a good follower. It’s about time that we give these, so far, unsung followers, their due credit and place in the sun.