Everyone wants to talk about leadership, but what about followership? What inspires you to follow others?

In his book, Leaders Open Doors, leadership guru Bill Treasurer talks about his leadership philosophy, which involves opening doors of opportunity for those he leads. Bill learned this lesson from his five-year-old son, who, when serving as kindergarten class leader, spent the day opening doors for his classmates. Bill was moved by the humility, servanthood, and empowerment his son extended to others while leading them, and has since based his work with organizations on this unique leadership approach. Imagine if you, as a nonprofit leader, focused on providing new opportunities, challenges, growth, and development for the people who are following you. What would change? How would your employees be different as a result? How would you be personally transformed?

What’s followership got to do with it?

Followership refers to a role held by certain individuals in an organization, team, or group; it is the capacity of an individual to actively follow a leader. The topic of leadership always gets the spotlight, but rarely is the concept of followership given its due diligence. Yet followership is important because no matter how much leadership experience you have, how many leadership development courses you take, or how great of a leader you think you are, if people don’t follow you, nothing will get done.

Strong followership produces results. You will know you have good followers (in this case, employees), when certain characteristics are evident such as competence, loyalty, respect, contribution to strategy, honesty, and hard work. On the other hand, poor followership shows up as poor work ethic, bad morale, unsatisfied customers, and lost opportunities.

How can I encourage strong followership in my organization?

Ultimately, each employee in your organization wants to be heard and valued as an individual – not merely one of the masses. Leaders need to empower employees at all levels by encouraging them to reach their individual potential.

Spend time with your employees one-on-one. Get to know each person as an individual – his or her likes and dislikes, strengths and opportunities for improvement, career and development interests, and work-style preferences. Resolve to customize your leadership approach for each person. This will take some work on your part – but it’s worth the investment. When your team feels seen, heard, and appreciated, they will be more engaged in their work and loyal to you as a leader and the organization overall.

How can I be a leader my employees want to follow?

In addition to getting to know your employees and playing to their strengths, effective leaders are ever self-aware. They know who they are, what they’re good at, and what they’re not so great at. And after taking stock of all of these traits, they aim to lead from a place of strength.

Certain characteristics stand out as common qualities of especially influential leaders. Followers look to leaders who have the following:


They clearly articulate a vision that excites people and have a contagious world-view.


They credit successes to the team and failures to themselves.


They act with integrity and are committed to the truth, even if the truth isn’t pleasant.


They are open to new ideas and are flexible.

Take an honest look at yourself: Do the above traits ring true for you? What are your strong leadership qualities, and what do you need to develop? An authentic self-assessment is a good first step to toward gaining a team of strong followers. Brighter Strategies has the tools, resources, and coaching experience to guide you on this path toward more effective leadership.

Please contact us to learn more at 703-224-8100. Today is the day you can become a leader others seek to follow!