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Should Leaders Also Be Good Followers? (#111)

The Confident Leader

Throughout my coaching career I’ve had people say some interesting things in coaching sessions. One that used to puzzle me was along the lines of, “Robin, thank you for giving me permission to do that.” Or a more plaintive variation, “Robin, I’m stuck. Can you just tell me what to do?”

If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.
— Brian Tracy (motivational speaker)

This Week’s Edition

While leaders have direct reports, they also have people to whom they are accountable. Leaders report to someone: the CEO, the board of directors, shareholders or customers. They are followers too.

Clarify Your Thinking

The leaders I’ve encountered who are asking for permission are men and women of all ages captaining massive organizations with millions of dollars in revenue, and hundreds or thousands of employees.  Their title and position explicitly gives them authority and permission to take action. They’ve got influence. So why would they look to me for permission for their leadership?

What I’ve found is that those leaders aren’t really looking for permission from me or a directive on what to do. They are expressing a deep need, a desire to be led during times of change and disruption. This begs the question; does everyone want to be led?  Even leaders? 

For those of you who are leaders, you may see this desire to be led on a daily basis. The people in your charge look to you to be the leader they need. They want to be led by someone who:

  • Sees them

  • Knows them

  • Cares about them

  • Respects them and

  • Is committed to their success

Why would leaders be any different? Why would their need or desire to be led be any different than those on their team just because they are at the top? Who’s leading our leaders? 

Leaders who are not familiar with their desire to be led will continually look for permission or cede their decision making to others.

Old Thinking: Thank you for giving me permission to do that. 

New Thinking: As a leader, I still have a need to be led. I will ask “boss” what they expect and communicate what I need to do the job.

Thoughts Lead to Actions

To be a good leader, you must be a good follower.  As a leader, how are you fulfilling your role as a follower to your “boss.” Use your Leadership Thinking Time to reflect on how are you:

  • Showing up?

  • Engaging in what’s expected?

  • Doing your work?

  • Communicating upward?

  • Supporting your boss?

As leaders, our focus is on the behavior of those who report to us, our followers. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to take a step back to see if we are following our own standard of good followership. Followers can influence an organization’s effectiveness by as much as 80%. 

For leaders, being a good follower may improve your relationship with your boss and grow your empathy toward your own followers. Good followers make good leaders. 

Boost Your Performance

Good followers will actively support good leadership (effective and ethical) and will actively oppose bad leadership (ineffective and unethical). What are you willing to do to be a good leader? Would you go so far as to stoop to being a good follower? We believe good leadership is attainable and that it is the difference maker. Watch this week’s video to see what it takes to be a good follower.  

What’s Your Opinion?

What is the one trait you admire most in someone who is a good follower? Let me know at

If you are going to be a leader, you might as well be a good one. Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

We live to make bad leadership extinct so forward this newsletter to others who strive to be confident leaders. 

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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