Beliefs & Values Blog Conscious Leadership

Great Leaders need Great Followers

Written by Charlie Efford

You have just started a new job working for an enlightened leader. Your organisation does great work for a meaningful cause and you are given considerable freedom to do your job. The pay is good and you get plenty of opportunity for growth and development. You should be flying and well on the way to self-actualisation, but you are not. Something is wrong and things don’t feel right.

Great leaders can do very little without great followers. Creating an ideal working environment is the responsibility of the leader; taking advantage of these conditions and doing good work is the responsibility of the follower. To understand what it takes to become a great follower, I want to explore some of the obstacles that can get in the way.


Your mindset is the way you view the world and the beliefs and values you hold about how things should be. You can explore the boundaries of your mindset by noticing when you get strong feelings about events or situations. For example, someone might talk down to you and be a bit patronising. Your belief that people should be respectful to each other will kick in and you might find yourself feeling angry.

Most of us have a view about how work should be organised which is firmly imprinted in our mindset. When we encounter what we expect all is well. When we are exposed to something new (no matter how beneficial) our first reaction is discomfort and suspicion.

To overcome this obstacle you have to first recognise that you have set of values and beliefs (and that they are not universal truths) and then acknowledge that your discomfort is linked to them. As you explore your discomfort you may uncover some deeper feelings.


Fear is a powerful feeling that can stop us achieving many good things. The discomfort of finding ourselves in an environment that seems too good to be true might be masking a deeper fear of failure. Your ego might be telling you that the freedom you have to make decisions gives you nowhere to hide when things go wrong, so why would you expose yourself to this risk? For many people the consequences of getting things wrong have been unpleasant. They have learnt to stay safe by only taking on what they are capable of. Although this approach may be prudent, it is not a recipe for growth and development. Without growth the world loses out on the unique talents we have to offer.

At this point, if you want to become a great follower you either have to get some help or risk taking more personal responsibility.

Taking Personal Responsibility

In the West, we have grown accustomed to other people looking after us. We often get indignant when our lives are inconvenienced and start saying things like “someone should do something about this” What we rarely get is the opportunity to take responsibility for handling the situation our way, and when it does come there is often a high degree of anxiety (probably caused by a fear of failure). Despite the risks most people are much happier when they are allowed to take personal responsibility for their work. The fears soon melt away and the freedom to make a personal impact becomes very meaningful.

All I can do is encourage you to take the opportunity when it comes your way, and if you are anxious, to get some help until you build up your confidence.

The role of a leader is shifting from ‘Being in charge’ to ‘Holding the space – for joint responsibility’.

The world needs great leaders, but it needs great followers even more. The world is getting too complex and demanding for leaders to take all the responsibility on their shoulders. The role of a leader is shifting from ‘Being in charge’ to ‘Holding the space – for joint responsibility’.

We, as followers, cannot deliver on our side of the bargain unless we are willing to become great followers. To do that we have to understand our mindset and see it for what it is, face our fears and take more personal responsibility for our work.

If you would like to know more about being a Great Follower, please call me

About the author

Charlie Efford


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