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Leading and Following

Most of our readers are C-level or VP level leaders, and/or have a significant management role at their company.  Even the C-level people have bosses.  So even leaders have to follow.  Sometimes, the higher you reach in management, the harder it gets to follow!  What makes a great leader someone who can also follow?  Here are some tips:

Collaborative Support:  You must keep the goals of your boss in front of you at all times, and help your boss reach those goals.  Even if you have disagreed about the goal while it is being formulated, once the decision has been reached, you must buy-in and be fully supportive.  Going to battle with your boss on his/her goals, or not working enthusiastically toward those goals, is a lose-lose proposition.

Trust:  Good followers are reliable and trustworthy.  You can’t gossip to others, go around your boss for decisions, or play politics.  Use the golden rule here:  Behave toward your boss with the integrity you would want to see from your own subordinates.

Influence:  If you are in an executive role, you are in a unique position to influence what your boss does.  Don’t like his/her approach?  Come armed with alternative solutions and make a case why your option serves their needs better.

Listener/Coach: Most bosses love a true sounding board, one who invokes the two ears, one mouth ratio, and really listens.  The more you are willing to listen, the more receptive your boss will be to hearing advice or suggestions.

Flexibility and Openness:  All companies shift gears. Growing companies are often the most dynamic and deal with the most change.  Real leaders know how to go with the flow.  Never draw lines in the sand or stay entrenched in a position if your boss needs you to shift.

Be Positive:  Last but not least is attitude.  A second in command sometimes puts him or herself in the naysayer role – making it their job to catch errors and spot problems.  That can be helpful, but a pervasive positive attitude will always be most important.

When you are a true leader, being a good follower can be a challenge, but it is the hallmark of being able to keep moving forward in your career.