Followership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Maurice James
  • Command Chief, 59th Medical Wing
What is one of the single biggest assets to great leadership? I believe without a doubt, it is great followership.

It is true that leaders must take responsibility and lead with vision, passion, commitment, and certainly role modeling; yet, I submit that without dedicated followers, there would be no great leaders.

Webster's dictionary defines leadership as "to lead, guide and direct". However, I ask that if you call yourself a leader and you are out-in front,but no one is following, are you really leading or just taking a walk?

To further illustrate my point, I would also remind you of General Welsh's statement that: "leadership is a gift given by those who follow".

Good followers are absolutely essential to good leaders. They ask the right questions, causing leaders to view things from different vantage points; they provide vital information to leaders so they can make informed decisions; they have the courage to respectfully tell leaders what they need to hear versus what they want to hear; and if they come to the leader with a problem, they also come with a possible solution or course of action in hand.

Finally, one of the most important attributes that a follower must demonstrate is loyalty. While one may not always agree with a leader's decisions, it is important to always demonstrate a strong sense of loyalty. As mentioned in the above paragraph, if a follower does not agree with a leader's decision, they should ask questions and get clarity; however, once the decision has been made (provided it is not illegal, immoral or unethical), the follower must do their best to demonstrate loyalty by taking ownership of the leader's decisions and championing it throughout the organization as if it were their own decision.

As a Command Chief, I am expected to be a strong leader and I certainly do my best to fulfill this expectation, by setting and enforcing standards, leading by example, and taking care of people. Nevertheless, I also consider myself to be a great follower and that is something that I am very proud of.

To help determine how effective I am as a follower, I use the following six questions. Please feel free to use them to check your followership effectiveness as well:

Do I know and understand what my leader expects of me? Have I earned my leader's trust by displaying my loyalty? Do I present solutions or courses of action when I present challenges? Do I provide relevant and timely information to my leader before he/she makes decisions? Do I champion my leader's decisions throughout my organization as if they were my own? If I disagree with a decision do I champion in public and critique respectfully in private?

While I am absolutely proud to be a senior enlisted leader in the 59th Medical Wing, I am even more proud to be a follower of the many great leaders in our Wing, Command and Air Force! I am proud of my role as a follower, as it does not make me weak. Rather it makes me and my team stronger.

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