Leaders and followers have been around since the beginning of human history, the two depend on each other like a fish depends on water. The world we live in today was formed collectively, due to past leaders and the influence that they had on their followers. When you think about the extraordinary leaders in history i.e., George Washington, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, you think about not only their great achievements but also the people they were able to inspire. These are a few phenomenal examples of servant leaders, but before they got to that stage; they, at some point, had to take a followership role. Servant Leadership and followership goes hand in hand, none being more important than the other. There are critical lessons that each individual has to learn as a follower before they can become an influential leader.
It is important to recognize the different types of followers, according to Kelly model of followership behaviors, there are 5 behaviors that followers display. First is alienated followers, these are passive individuals who can think critically but have a hard time expressing their ideas. They take a bystander stance whenever problems arises and ideas are needed. Next we have effective followers; effective followers are great to have as a leader. They value the development of the team and they put forth their ideas in order to improve the group. The third follower behavior that the model talks about are the sheep, these type of followers are completely dependent on whoever leads them. They fail to think for themselves and won’t really come forward or speak up until they’re asked to. Next we have yes people, we all have been exposed to yes people whether it be in school or on the job. Yes people have a large focus on being liked by whoever is above them. They will do anything to please that person even if it goes against what they believe. Finally we have the survivors, survivors will adapt and become anything he or she needs to become in order to accomplish the mission. Understanding the importance of the different types of followers is a crucial skill that servant leaders must develop.
The ability to serve others comes with a great deal of patience and humility and is not a calling that everyone in life is able to answer. It takes an enormous amount of strength as well as a deep understanding of who you are. There will be times when your authority is challenge and it’s in those critical moments that may determine your success as a leader. John Maxwell introduced an interesting point in his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” He suggested the idea of the strong only being able to follow those stronger, he placed strength on a scale of one to ten. Maxwell gave the example of if a person being rated an eight on said scale, he’ll naturally follow a nine or ten. On the other hand if you place an eight under a five or six, there will inevitably be a power struggle between the follower and the leader. This power struggle is enough to scar the weaker leader’s growth, in the worst scenarios the weaker leader will develop a fear of leading in the future, sacrificing the potential he or she possess. This is why I feel that placing a potential leader in a followership role under a strong leader is vital not only to that person but to the team as well.
Together servant leaders and followers mold the world we live in. Success only comes when leaders are able to fully utilize their followers, and the followers are able to push their leader to grow and increase their capacity to influence. The greatest leaders recognized that before they could become servant leaders they had to first become a humble follower. As a leader I believe this is how you gain the power to influence the world.