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So You Want to be a Leader?

First you must learn to follow

Can you lead without having first been a follower?

The Napoleon Hill Foundation doesn’t think so:

“No one is capable of giving direction unless he or she knows how to take directions and carry them out.”

Nor did Aristotle:

“He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.”

Rick Beneteau had this to say:

“If you want to lead, first learn how to follow.”

So what does it mean, to learn to follow?

Here’s a simple question: How do you know what a leader looks like if you’ve never been a follower? You can study famous leaders and entrepreneurs, but until you’ve worked for a great leader, you’ll never really know.

To be a good leader, you need to develop a core set of skills, skills you learn by being a follower. Leaders can’t achieve much without a strong team behind them. And to be a good team player takes skill.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t have opinions or are a “yes” person. Some of the best team members I’ve worked with are those who challenge the leader’s decisions; it forces the whole team to think. Blindly following orders is not a good trait.

Here are a few qualities you need as a follower, ones that will be a good foundation when you become a leader.

Control your Ego

You’ll have the expression “There’s no ‘I’ in team”.

There is no place in a team for one person running around telling everyone how they did the great work, it was their idea etcetera. It breeds resentment among other team members.

Believe me, if you are any good, you will get noticed. Any decent leader will know who’s doing the work and who’s hanging off the apron strings.

I know one person, a freelance engineer, who tells anyone who’ll listen, how wonderful he is, and how he saved this or that job. Most people, staff and freelance alike, hate working with him. All the heroic episodes he recounts are usually due to problems of his own making.


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