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Christina Lattimer

People Development Magazine


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The Followers’ Guide to: What your Leader wants


Today, a search on showed 98,516 results for “leadership”.  A further search for “followship” came back with a mere 39 results.  I searched again for “team player” and received over 101,000 results, although “team player” wasn’t quite what I was looking for.   I know sometimes part of great leadership is setting out what you expect and need from your followers, and “followship” is a little used word, but the yawning gap between the results surprised even me.

You may be a leader or a follower or both.  As a leader do you ever think we are disproportionately focused on your behaviours, skills and values?  As a follower, do you ever think about what your leader might require from you?  As a leader, do you take time out to articulate what you need from your followers? And I’m not talking about job specification or role here.

I guess some leaders would say they need different things from the people who work for them and industry differences would drive some of the skills, characteristics and behaviours of followers.    When you consider different dynamics across millions of organisations,  it’s a sure bet if people decided to write about followship with any enthusiasm, you would end up with considerably more books than those written on leadership.

As a leader I am sure you will either consciously or unconsciously know what you require of your followers, over and above their job role.  But do you articulate those wants, or do you get frustrated because your followers don’t actually follow very well?  If you are a follower, do you know what your leader expects of you, and if not would you like to know?

As a leader and manager, and a follower, and subsequently a coach for leaders and managers, I have over the years, experienced and listened to many views and opinions from leaders about their teams and what does and doesn’t work.  As a follower, I have consciously tried to support my leader and have sometimes found continuous support challenging.

As a starter for 10, I’ve brought together the main points gathered over the years and the following describes what I believe leaders commonly want from their followers.

As a follower involved in my leadership I need you to:

  • Take responsibility for yourself
  • Get the big picture and understand exactly what we are trying to do together
  • Have an affinity with and believe in what we are trying to achieve
  • Give a positive account of the organisation and concentrate  on what is good about it
  • At times when it is crucial for the business, go the extra mile
  • Care about others on your team
  • Commit to resolving differences in an adult and win/win way
  • When you’re not able to fulfil your contract for any period of time for family or medical reasons, you commit to doing your best to get back to work as soon as you can because you know how crucial you are to the excellence of the business.
  • Commit to getting the work done, on time and to the best of your ability
  • Give me the benefit of the doubt
  • Trust me to take the best decision I can with the information I have, even if you don’t like it.
  • Understand we have a mutual contract and I will respect your rights, and you respect mine.
  • Forgive me for my mistakes, we all make them
  • If you aren’t happy come and tell me about it constructively, trust me to listen and do something about it
  • If you can’t commit to any of the above, consider how you are contributing to the success of the organisation, and if you can’t or won’t commit then consider if you are in the wrong job.
  • If you are in the wrong job, then do your best you can while trying to find the right job.

Do you think it’s reasonable for a leader to expect certain behaviours and attitudes from their followers?  Do you think employers have a right to state so explicitly what they want and need from their staff?  Either comment below, or contact me [email protected]

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Christina Lattimer


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