Are you a good follower?

This is actually a key element of great leadership.

Steffan Surdek
February 6, 2023
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If you are like most leaders that I work with, you feel at your best in leading roles. You feel that your skills shine most when you are organizing your teams to work towards a common objective.

However, one of the key skills of co-creative leadership is unleashing the leaders around you. Co-creative leaders recognize people with untapped leadership potential and put them in situations that help them grow into the leaders they can be.

To do this, you have to be able to fall back at times to let other people lead. That means you have to become a follower. When you think about it, how comfortable are you being in charge at times and following someone else at other times?

In this article, I will explore into more detail how you can become a good follower to help your team flourish.

What does it mean to be a follower?

When you choose to be a follower, you are actually giving someone else permission to lead. Are you able to support them and allow them to lead instead of being in the driver's seat? What this means is letting the person do things their way and not necessarily your way.

Let's take an example: say you are delegating a piece of work to someone on your team who wants to develop a new skill. You can align on the goals and outcomes, but let them navigate getting there on their own terms.

This will probably take you out of your comfort zone, especially if being in charge is in your nature. Avoid trying to take over because you are afraid they will make mistakes. This will only disrupt the work and create a frustrating experience for the other person.

What could be happening in a situation like this is that you do not understand what the person is doing, because it is not the way you would have done it. Instead, understand that there can be different perspectives and look for common ground. You should also work on being open to see what you could learn from their way of doing things.

How being a follower can make you a better leader

The great thing is that being in a follower role does not mean that you are blindly going along like an obedient robot. You can ensure that your leadership skills get used in another capacity to support the leader.

For example, you may have stronger note-taking skills or you may be able to ask questions to move conversations forward.

This is also an opportunity for you to learn to develop your soft skills to be a more conscious leader. This includes being a better listener. Learn to notice what your team needs in the situation and in turn decide how to best use your leadership abilities to help them.

The perks of being a follower

The great thing that happens when you become a follower is that you are taking away some of the burden on yourself. When you let others on your team shine, they take ownership and develop their skills as well.

Being a follower does not necessarily only apply to the people you are leading. You can also think about searching for opportunities to follow people who you want to learn from.

You can collaborate and learn from executives or people on your management team who have more experience than you. Being a follower to a senior mentor is a great way to learn a new skill and develop your own leadership.


Being a follower can take years to figure out. To be honest, being a follower can be hard the first few times! You will probably want to jump in and take charge. If you do this, you will need to recognize it and apologize.

What you are actually doing when you learn to follow others is you are changing your leadership game. You will pick up some great insight from this approach and develop more meaningful relationships with others as well.

Being good at leading and following regardless of job titles makes you a better leader. You have to practice and consciously work at this though — the changes will not happen overnight!

How could you follow a dormant leader on your team? What opportunities could you create for them to help them reach their leadership potential?