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Why Good Leaders Start As Good Followers

People in leadership roles have the latitude to decide who they want to work with. That's one of the perks. We spend significant numbers of hours each day; creating companies, building things, driving change and hopefully improving the world. Why not spend it with people that are great to be around?

Why Good Leaders Start As Good FollowersGood leaders get to where they are by gathering experiences and expertise, building relationships that open doors, and being measurably more impactful than the next person. They get results because they can execute but also inspire others.

The world needs more good leaders - those that have values, can drive outcomes, can rally people around a cause and deliver goods and services that make the world better in some way. Especially in a world of increasing automation, good leaders bring that human touch, creativity and judgment that is so highly valued at the top of the tree. 

Good leaders start as good followers because the more experiences you accumulate, the more enlightened you are, and the stronger your network, the more likely you are to succeed. Good followers are invited into opportunities that others aren't and can therefore accelerate the process of being a leader that others admire.

Good followers exhibit these traits

  • An impeccable work ethic
  • Trustworthiness
  • Self-confidence but zero arrogance
  • Are easy to be around


Of the 4 traits mentioned above, 'easy to be around' is the one that needs more attention. It is within everyone’s reach and yet workplaces are cluttered with difficult people.

People that are easy to be around get more opportunities by virtue of approachability and the expectation that minimal friction will arise in their presence. They take care of business without attitude or cynicism. With so many choices open to CEOs today in regards to potential employees - remote workers, global workers, robots - they don't need to waste their time with people who require more attention than they are willing to or able to provide.

Rising leaders that are easy to be around are willing to laugh at themselves - they are happy when people kid around with them at work; it means others see promise in them. Good up-and coming leaders (good followers) see the humour in the unpredictability of their jobs and lives in general.

Good followers understand that no matter the amount of stress they're under now, when they're the head of a multi-million or billion-dollar company, when they have shareholders, or when people depend on them for food on their tables at home, they will be entering a whole new world of concern.
 
They are easy to instruct and delegate work to (without hassle) which opens more pathways to learning. There is always someone else waiting in the wings that CEOs and founders can bring onto their team and good followers know this.

Lastly, and most simply, good followers know how to be nice! They know that people remember how they were treated by them for a long time - if they're rude, insulting, or unwelcoming, it won’t be forgotten. They appreciate that if you alienate the people around you as a follower, the path to leadership will be more rocky. Even something simple like remembering a person’s name helps rising leaders build a reputation as amiable and congenial. Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack and Flickr, may have put it best when he said in Business Insider.com, "Work hard and be good to other people or you won't have the life you want to". These are words worth remembering and passing along to the leaders of the future in our ranks.

Author Credits

Kylie Wright-Ford is an executive leader, advisor and board member for growth companies.  Based in the US, Australian born and raised, and globally traveled, she has unique first-hand perspectives on leading across geographies, generations and styles. Her first book, The Leadership Mind Switch, co-authored with ten times author and CEO Coach Debra Benton, was just published by McGraw Hill. Please visit www.kyliewf.com and www.makethemindswitch.com for more details.

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