Be a Great Leader, Be a Great Follower

Be a Great Leader, Be a Great Follower - USAA Member Community


Military and business books love to discuss great leaders, leadership styles, what types of leadership styles are associated with success, and how to be a great leader. Before someone can be a great leader, they have to be a great follower. 


Good followership is the basis for the initial or entry level training for any military service for any military specialty. From the Army to the Coast Guard and all services in between, all start with individuals demonstrating how they can be a good follower. For leadership in the military, government, business, education and not-for-profit, the great leaders begin as great followers. 


As you seek to start and progress your career, follow these five steps of being a great follower:


  1. Be a Great Follower – Lead By Example. Leading by Example is the consistent practice of doing everything to the highest possible standard when people are and are not looking. Think of the person at the loading dock at 10 PM on a Friday night sweeping, mopping, and taking out the trash even though they are the only person there – that’s leadership by example.


  1. Be a Great Follower – Be Engaged. Leaders need followers that are engaged and energetic to understand and meet the challenges they are facing. Followers that truly seek to understand what their boss needs, why they need it, and what they can do to help, even if it goes beyond their normal scope of duties, is an engaged and active workforce.


  1. Be a Great Follower – Exercise Initiative. Leaders need followers who are ready to quickly get involved when operations and plans change. Followers who understand the leader’s plans, understand what they can do to help, see the change happening and then jump in are an invaluable asset to an organization. Following orders and exercising initiative are equal requirements to being a great follower.


  1. Be a Great Follower – Look to Help Others on the Team. I remember on a particularly cold and rainy day during the Mountain Phase of US Army Ranger School, a Ranger student who was never in charge but helped everyone out. He let the person carrying the radio sleep an extra 30 minutes and took his radio watch. He probably helped 10 different people out that day. This particular student knew the best way to help the leader was to help others on the team.


  1. Be a Great Follower – Ask Questions & Help Set The Strategy. We all expect the leader to know everything and the leader rarely does know everything - that's life! If you watch a great team in action, the entire team asks questions, helps put the plan together and solidifies their part in the mission. This process by followers to ask questions and help set a successful outcome is invaluable.


Leadership is an extra ordinary challenge. Great leaders are all supported by great followers who lead by example, are engaged, employ initiative, help others on the team, and ask questions to help set the strategy. When you look to improve your leadership style and characteristics, look to see how you can become a better follower. Great followers are great leaders & great leaders are great followers!


Have something to add to this article? Share your thoughts below:





Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.




221885 - 0815

1 Comment