Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Followership: Often overlooked, critical trait

By Senior Master Sgt. Rick Vogel

21st Dental Squadron

If you have not heard the term “followership” before, or not thought twice about it, you are not alone. It usually appears as a “non-word” when documents are spell-checked on the computer. It is not a new concept, just one that is often overlooked or forgotten.

Why followership is overlooked and forgotten is an intriguing concept. Without followers, would there be leaders? Who would they lead? Who would become leaders if they were not first followers? Leadership and followership are interactive: Leaders depend on followers and vice a versa. Team efforts are critical in the Air Force, and such efforts require active followers.

Followership can be defined as the willingness to cooperate in working toward the accomplishment of the mission, to demonstrate a high degree of teamwork and to build cohesion among the organization. Effective followership is an essential building block to effective leadership. There are numerous sources to which one can turn to find helpful information on effective leadership, leadership practices, and on becoming the best leader one can be. Fewer sources exist on guiding one to be an effective follower, though there are some.

Behaviors that comprise effective followership include:

  • Volunteering to handle tasks or help accomplish goals
  • Willingly accepting assignments
  • Exhibiting loyalty to the organization
  • Offering suggestions
  • Maintaining a positive attitude, even in confusing or trying times
  • Working effectively as a team member

As a follower, it is often easy to criticize the tactics, styles or ideas of a leader. Sometimes it helps to critically evaluate our own views towards leadership, the organization, and ourselves as followers to get a better understanding of the situation. The evaluation allows us to learn how to create change in ourselves, how to deal with difficulties and how to become productive and happy followers. We might also learn that being a leader is not as easy as it may sometimes appear.

Even if you are perfectly satisfied with your leadership, it is necessary for you – just as it is for a leader – to evaluate your role as a follower, collaborator, and group member to determine if you are performing in this role at the highest level possible. Effective leadership requires effective followership. Do your best to make your organization the best it can be.

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