Be a Great Follower


Most of us will work most of our lives for someone else. And sometimes we do this in very tough environments. The truth is everyone, at every level, can help build and sustain a healthy culture. Much of this has to do with modeling how to be a great follower.

So what is a great follower?


This has to do mostly with attitude. Don’t make your leader be the only one pulling up the energy and attitude level of the rest of the team. Bring the energy. Everywhere you go, take your fun with you and help bump up the momentum.


No one should live out the values more than you do. Your business or church has decided certain values are important, and they have likely settled on a mission or vision. Be a champion of those values. Do everything you can to intentionally support the mission, and explain to others why you are doing this. Don’t expect them to make the connection.


It is extremely important to have senior-level leaders who are tuned in to the danger of silos, and who work overtime to tear them down. As a contributing member of the team, it is important to do everything you can to sniff out and stomp out silos.


Make a decision not to engage in triangle conversations. Don’t talk to Joe about Bill’s problems, hoping that Joe will tell Bill how disappointed you are. Be vigilant about not playing those middle school games. Just talk straight, tackle issues when they arise, and treat people like adults. When you have an issue with someone, go directly to that person, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, and for goodness’ sake, do not drag other people into the cesspool of speculation. Make a decision not to participate in gossip, slander, or put-downs, even about someone you don’t particularly like.


Jesus told us that where our money goes directly reflects the condition of our hearts (Luke 12:34). As a follower, if you choose to work for a church, you should do so at a place where you love the mission of that church, want to give generously to the ministry, and can’t wait to see what’s going to happen through the congregation.


Great followers are solution-oriented. They don’t just take complaints and problems up the chain of command—they show up with solutions. I loved it when we were enduring budget cuts or staff transitions, and a staff member said, “No problem, we’ll figure out a different way to do this.” The most creative ideas are born through adversity. Some of the greatest ideas in ministry came when we didn’t have enough staff or weren’t able to buy all the stuff we needed. Leaders, who sometimes have to make extremely difficult decisions when times are lean, love followers who show up with innovative solutions.


I’m not saying you are best friends with your boss, or that you chest bump at the end of every football game, but your leader needs to know you are for him or her. So always assume the best, and when accusations are flying, believe in your team. Believe in your leader.


You should be someone who still walks the walk when no one else is looking. Your personal choices are bigger than you. They affect your kids and your family, and they can even have an impact on your job or the entire organization. Your leaders don’t need you to be perfect, but they need you to live an authentic life of integrity. If you need to take some time off to work on something, ask for the time off before you make a choice that will cripple the entire organization.


The strength of your ministry and leadership comes from your strength at home. You do no one any good if you work all the time while your marriage is crumbling and your kids are a mess. Don’t believe the lie that you can trade quantity time for quality time. Quality time never comes without quantity time. You have to spend scores of hours with your kids if you hope for occasional, spontaneous moments of heart-to-heart connection.


Read books, listen to podcasts, call other leaders to pick their brains, and bring back the best stuff you can find. Be a constant source of ideas based on what you’ve learned from the best practices of other organizations. Go to conferences when you can, and come back with an unsolicited summary for your boss: “Here are the two or three things I learned last week.”

If we have a team full of great followers who take these ideals to heart and make them authentic throughout their daily lives, we will have unstoppable unity and focus. And that might just revolutionize the workplace.

Read more in Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace

Tim StevensComment