Leadership and Followership!

  • Published
  • By Col. Susan M. Rhodes
  • Reserve National Security Space Institute
We have all heard the saying "lead, follow, or get out of the way." This saying sometimes makes me think of a bull in a china shop charging straight ahead without regard to what's really going on. I've known quite a few folks who operate that way. I guess it could also be saying you have to do something - you can't just stand in the middle of the street for very long without getting run over. So how do leadership and followership go hand in hand?
Being a good follower is quite simple; in fact, many sheep and cows have perfected the act of followership (I do pity that poor buffalo leader who took the herd off of the cliff though). Per our friend Webster, a follower is one who accepts the guidance or leadership of others. So we have established that being a true follower is quite easy. But it is a different story when you connect leadership with followership; you now begin to see where mentoring comes in to play. As a young ROTC student, I was repeatedly told to find a good NCO at my duty station and to listen and learn. Those
NCOs took us fledglings under their wings and mentored us into ― "smarter 2Lts" (although ― "smarter" and ― "2Lt" probably don't go together). These NCOs were great followers of us junior officers, but they were extremely wise leaders - always making sure we weren't doing anything stupid.
Sometimes as the senior member of a team, you need to empower those younger to mentor and assist them in perfecting their leadership skills. We see this everywhere in our society from teaching our children how to get to school, our junior officers and enlisted members growing in their career fields, to even our senior leaders. No one knows everything, and from time to time, we need to sit back and be a follower and stop, listen and learn. So for me, an effective leader is also a good follower.
So take a look at yourself - are you part of the herd and perfecting your followership skills or are you an effective leader mentoring and guiding others as a good follower?