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NEWS | Sept. 25, 2008

Chief's Corner - Followership

By Chief Master Sgt. Kevin G. Slater 1st Fighter Wing command chief master sergeant

Without followers a leader accomplishes nothing!

I've no doubt your response to my opening statement is "duh, no kiddin'."

So, if we agree my opening line is a no-brainer, why does the word "follower" tend to conjure up negative images? If I describe someone as a great follower why would they likely take it as a dig rather than as a compliment?

I'm looking at the word "leadership" in the dictionary right now. In fact, it has many definitions and each point to a position of strength. Meanwhile, I can't find "followership" in the dictionary at all. It appears to be like Rodney Dangerfield--it gets no respect.

I believe the best follower is at least as valuable as the best leader. A follower asks thought-provoking questions, provides constructive criticism, and gets clarification before they act. 

By doing so, the best follower compels the leader to strengthen his problem-solving and communication skills. 

A follower also brings solutions, or at least proposed courses of action, whenever he brings challenges to the leader. 

Finally, agree or disagree, once the leader digests the follower's feedback and makes a decision, the best follower takes ownership of the decision and champions the decision throughout the organization as if it were their own. 

This is called loyalty and it must live inside every follower. We must all possess it, reward those in whom it is present, and admonish those in whom it is absent.

I bet many of you think fulfilling my responsibilities as Wing Command Chief takes well-honed leadership skills. Would you be surprised if I told you it takes even better-honed followership skills?

I gauge my strength as a follower by the answers I give to these six questions. Feel free to use these questions to gauge your followership skills. Are you satisfied with your responses?

1. Do I know and understand what my leader expects of me?
2. Have I earned my leader's trust by displaying my loyalty?
3. Do I present solutions or courses of action when I present challenges?
4. Do I provide relevant and timely information to my leader before he makes decisions?
5. Do I champion my leader's decisions throughout my organization as if they were my own?
6. If I disagree with a decision do I champion in public and critique respectfully in private? 

I'm proud to be a senior enlisted leader in the 1st Fighter Wing, but more importantly I'm proud to be a follower of the many great leaders in our wing! I am proud of my role as a follower. It does not make me weak. It makes me and my organization strong!