What Is Followership? 14 Qualities of Good Followers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 14, 2022 | Published June 15, 2021

Updated March 14, 2022

Published June 15, 2021

When working as a team, some people naturally take a leadership role while others provide support as followers. Both roles are essential for successful collaboration within a group. Being a leader or a follower may come naturally to some people while others have to learn how to fulfill their place on their team. Learning how to be a good follower can contribute to your teamwork skills and provide a useful perspective for future leadership opportunities. In this article, we explain the concept and value of followership in the workplace and share some of the top qualities of effective followers.

What is followership?

Followership is the ability to accomplish goals under a leader's direction. Successful followership involves following instructions, completing assigned tasks, supporting initiatives and being motivated. Good followers see the value in listening to others and helping achieve their vision. Followership in the workplace emphasizes holding yourself to a high standard of personal success while contributing to the overall benefit of the team.

Related: What Does Leadership Mean?

Why is followership important?

Followership is important because it contributes to a successful, cohesive team environment. Organizations rely on followership to accomplish complex goals and maintain a functioning hierarchy of operations. While it’s true that an organization is only as good as its leaders, it is also only as good as its followers. 

Some of the benefits of followership in the workplace include:

  • More effective delegation: Followership is an essential part of delegating and sharing responsibilities on a team. When you know how to be a good follower, you promote your personal efficiency while contributing to team productivity.

  • Improving morale: Demonstrating followership can contribute to a positive team culture of support and respect. Your willingness to be a follower on some projects allows others the opportunity to lead and grow as a team.

  • Improving outcomes: When team members act as engaged followers who invest in the results of group efforts, they can improve the quality of workplace projects and drive growth.

Related: Interview Question: "Are You a Leader or a Follower?"

14 key followership characteristics

Here are some of the top followership qualities that can help you succeed in the workplace:

1. Ego management

Good followers have their egos under control. They are team players in the truest sense of the concept. They have good interpersonal skills and display empathy. If you are a good follower, your success relates more to performance and goal achievement rather than personal recognition and self-promotion.

2. Loyalty

Good followers respect their obligation to be loyal to their employer. Followers who are not loyal are more likely to create problems between team members, compromise goal achievement and reduce the team’s productivity. As a follower, you have a strong allegiance and commitment to the company’s plans. You know that your obligation is to the company, not a given leader at a given point in time.

3. Humility

The ability to show humility is an important part of effective followership. Helping others find opportunities where they can lead and respecting their authority promotes a culture of shared professional growth in the workplace. You acknowledge when others have great ideas and are proactive about supporting their efforts. You also understand the importance of each contribution to a project, regardless of how simple or complicated it is. When a leader assigns tasks, you respect the roles of others on your team.

Related: Humility in the Workplace: How To Show It and the Benefits It Brings

4. Work ethic

Teams function best when leaders and followers both are dedicated to a project. Strong followers are motivated to excel even when they aren't specifically in charge of a project. Through your actions, you demonstrate that you are diligent, committed and pay attention to detail. These are the same qualities that leaders will look for when it comes time for promotions or other leadership opportunities open.

Work Ethic

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Ways to demonstrate work ethic:

  1. Put away distractions

  2. Ask for help to identify areas for improvement

  3. Spend your time wisely on tasks that align with goals

  4. Organize your notes, inbox and workspaces for increased focus, motivation and time management

  5. Take breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout

  6. Identify motivators such as tasks, goals or colleagues

  7. Practice time management to complete quality, on-time work and be more present in meetings

5. Courage

Followers must take direction but they also have an underlying obligation to do so only when the direction is ethical and proper. Good followership means having the courage to speak up when you have concerns. In your role as a follower, you may need to give negative feedback to a leader or other team members. This can be especially challenging if you need to confront a leader. If the situation is serious enough, you may consider taking your concerns to a higher level of leadership.

6. Active listening

Active listening is a core aspect of followership because it promotes understanding between team members. By engaging others with questions or clarifying comments, you can establish clear expectations for your own duties. Active listening helps you understand a leader's strategies and suggestions, which then gives you the knowledge and motivation to thrive. Show active listening in the workplace by paying attention during meetings, asking for input from others and regularly checking in with team members about shared goals.

Related: How To Improve Your Listening Skills

7. Tact

Sharing your ideas in a group setting while acknowledging a leader's choices involves using emotional intelligence, interpersonal awareness and tact. As leaders share their ideas, you may show appreciation for their guidance and address any concerns in a manner that focuses on finding solutions. Be prepared to give an honest assessment of what the leader is trying to achieve and how. Good leaders are grateful for constructive feedback from their team. 

Related: Diplomatic Skills: Definition and Examples

8. Teamwork

Successful followership requires strong teamwork skills and a group-oriented mindset. Demonstrating teamwork as a follower involves working hard, being fair with others and offering your assistance when team members need help. Promoting synergy within a group makes it easier to accomplish objectives, share support and solve problems as a team. Your loyalty to the team's mission and leader's vision can influence workplace efficiency and operations.

Related: Teamwork and Collaboration: What They Are and How To Improve Them

9. Good judgment

It is just as important for a follower to have good judgment as a leader. If your leader knows they can depend on you to do high-quality, timely work, they may give you more responsibilities and independence. If you show good judgment as a follower, you may be provided an opportunity to lead in the future. 

10. Adaptability

For a team to operate successfully, members may need to adopt multiple roles and be flexible in their duties. Positive followership involves a willingness to assist with incomplete tasks and adjust your work strategy to meet team objectives. Adaptability makes you a better follower and makes your entire team more willing to approach large projects. Showing adaptability as a follower also exposes you to multiple types of responsibilities and prepares you for future leadership opportunities.

11. Competency

While followership emphasizes teamwork, good followers also have a high level of competency. Being a follower who drives progress on a team involves knowing how to do your job well and independently completing delegated tasks. You can use followership skills to interpret direction and guidance from a leader while using your specialized knowledge to determine the best way to accomplish assignments.

12. Critical thinking

Well-functioning teams include both followers and leaders thinking critically about how their actions influence outcomes and goals. Critical thinking supports your ability to contribute to team goals and give useful feedback to team leaders. It improves your judgment and allows you to understand the full context of how a team interacts and works together. Promote followership with critical thinking by using good judgment and being thoughtful about how your choices in the workplace support team success.

Read more: What’s the Importance of Critical Thinking in the Workplace?

13. Attention to detail

Leadership involves envisioning overarching, long-term goals while followership focuses on completing the detailed steps to achieve those objectives. Paying attention to detail and caring about the technical aspects of a project ensures thorough, quality work. Detail-oriented people can thrive in a followership role because they can dedicate their time and attention to high-level tasks while the leader manages workflows and compiles each element into a final project.

14. Time management

When leaders give directions and delegate tasks, they rely on committed followers to accomplish those goals according to schedule. Followership requires an understanding of time management strategies so you can organize tasks and meet expectations. If you have questions, ask leaders for clarity to avoid missing deadlines or misallocating resources.

Read more: 18 Ways To Improve Your Time Management Skills

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