First be a good follower – 29 March 2011


“Goodness! My boss is so stupid. He does not understand half the things. I don’t know how he became the boss, who made him the boss. I have decided one thing – I will listen to him only when it suits me. The boss has no guts to say me anything, because he does not know half the things. Even when I come late to office, he says nothing. If I go out for a smoke without seeking his permission, he says nothing. Let me tell you, he is no good a boss. He has no leadership qualities. But I am happy. I take all liberties. I am enjoying. In my section, I make my own rules…..”

This conversation between two young executives tells me the complete story – not of the organization where they were working, but of the future of the young man who was taking so many liberties only because his boss was rather lenient to him. I could tell from years of industrial counseling that the boy would never become a good leader himself. How I wished I could tell him a wise word or two!

But then, this has been my experience for years – about leadership, about organizational dynamics, about various shades of human behavior in young age that decide what the person would make of himself in later years. If one wants to be a good leader, one has to become a good follower first.

This truth has been recognized by all those who study organizational behavior or those who undertake purposeful leadership studies. All good leaders, without exception, are good followers. They are also the ones who follow all the rules of the organization which they wish to lead at some time in the future. They may not appreciate some of those rules, and may want to change those once they become leaders, but they do not violate the rules just because their boss does not accost them. On the contrary, they are more meticulous followers of the rules because they respect the framework of the discipline of the organization.

So, the ‘mantra’ is simple: Be a good follower if you wish to be a good leader some day.

There are a few ground rules for becoming a good follower (so that you become a good leader in the future):

Have a good sense of personal discipline:

a. Be a stickler for time. Come to office in time. Finish your work as per the time schedule given to you by the office administration. Complete your assignments in perfect time, and help and motivate others to do the same, so that the organization benefits from such an action by one and all.

b. Help yourself to maintain time discipline by having a reasonable and well thought-out time-table for the whole day – at office or at home. Follow that time-table seriously so that you are never stretched beyond control.

c. Do include a regime of physical and mental exercises in your schedule so that you remain fit all the time and willing to take on any challenge at any time with a smile on the face.

Have a good sense of personal presence:

a. This is very important from many angles. Dress appropriately and becomingly. Keep your attire suitable to the occasion and season. Be a decently dressed person so that others get a positive message about how meticulous you are.

b. Keep your work station neat and clean, for it communicates the degree of importance you attach to your work.

c. Keep your vehicle – car, two-wheeler, bicycle – in a good shape so that it never fails you in times or urgency.

d. Maintain good relations with all so that you become acceptable to the whole organization and every one vouches for you when time comes to select you to be a boss.

Attach utmost seriousness to organizational policies and goals:

a. Always remember that the bosses of your organization have slogged to form policies and goals with a lot of care and concern. So respect those. If you have some other ideas, then discuss those with the superiors in a respectful manner. If you happen to win the point, then do not brag about that with your peers. That will paint you in a bad light in the consideration of your bosses.

b. Never utter disrespectful words about your organization inside the office or outside it. Never also indulge in loose talk about the bosses. You may discuss bosses’ decisions or even question their validity with them, but never with others.

These are some basic ways to become a good follower. If you follow these, you stand out from the crowd and get noticed not only by the peers but also by the seniors and superiors, a key to be considered by the organization for any leadership position.

Published in The Hitavada – Future 29 March 2011


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