As You Give Thanks, Be Thankful For Good Followers

Nov 22, 2012

Stephen Covey said, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” Leadership and management are two completely different things, but often confused as being interchangeable. To be a good leader, one must first be a good follower. But what if you don’t know how to follow?

This is a challenge that cuts to the very core of ambitious, driven individuals.

Thanksgiving may seem an unlikely time to ponder this challenge. Today, after all, is when we give thanks for what we do have. However, it’s also a time to reflect on what lead us to this point, which brings us, if even only briefly, to thinking about the future and what we can do to continue moving up that ladder and make sure it is still firmly anchored against the right wall.

Lisa Petrilli, CEO of C-Level Strategies, Inc.,  discusses some of the struggles associated with following — as well as leading. The most pointed of the questions she asks is this:

  • Am I a difficult follower?
  • As a leader, am I difficult to follow?

As an owner — or a manager — you’ve undoubtedly come across the “difficult follower.” These are co-workers or employees who challenge everything, throw up reasons why not to do something, and only begrudgingly get through the day.

Petrilli outlines five issues that make someone a difficult follower:

  1. They don’t agree with the leader’s vision.
  2. Emotional barriers prevent them from following the leader.
  3. They are frustrated by a lack of direction.
  4. Uncertainty plagues their role.
  5. They don’t trust the leader.

Why are there difficult followers? Sometimes, sheer orneriness is the cause. More often, as Petrilli’s examples demonstrate, it’s how we lead. And how we lead can sometimes make us difficult to follow, creating difficult followers who would rather be good followers of excellent leaders.

So as you give thanks for what you do have, and for the ‘good followers’ who helped make it possible, look inward, and ponder Petrilli’s five questions about your leadership:

  1. Do you have a vision and have you clearly communicated it to your team?
  2. Have you explained to your team members the WIIFM (what Is In It For Me) of that vision?
  3. Are there emotional barriers between you and your followers?
  4. Are you feeding uncertainty or fear?
  5. Are you trustworthy and a values-based leader?

And before you finish your thanks giving, add an extra thanks that you took the time to even consider these questions. You are already on your way to leaning your ladder against the right wall.

Photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev /
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