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What kind of a team member are you?

What kind of a team member are you?
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Effectiveness in leadership is determined by the person who leads the team. His/her skills, qualities and styles have a huge bearing on how the...

Effectiveness in leadership is determined by the person who leads the team. His/her skills, qualities and styles have a huge bearing on how the leadership is perceived and experienced by others. But have you ever thought if the team members – who are referred to as followers – can impact the leadership effectiveness? Being a follower, how can one contribute and enhance the effectiveness of your leader? Let us explore.

In the leadership literature, much of the focus was given to the leader; and relatively less focus was paid to followers. In the available studies, there is one specific framework that appealed to me. It presents four types of followers using two dimensions- extent of independent and critical thinking, and the extent of active participation. To keep it simple, the four types are:

Sheep: These followers are highly dependent on the leader and they will not apply their brains. They may perform what has been asked of them without any resistance. However, they are not active in their disposition. In other words, they need to be pushed by the leader. Given this description, you can very well imagine ‘Sheep’ as those type of followers who may just do what you ask and push them to do.

Yes Boss: This type of followers once again are dependent on the leader for instructions. But the big difference from ‘Sheep’ and ‘Yes Boss’ type of followers perform their duty very actively. The moment leader instructs them to do something they plunge into action and complete it. They take pride in being such a resource to their boss. However, they will never question their boss.

Aloof/Alienated: These are the people who have independent thinking and therefore find it difficult to follow the instructions of their leader. At the same time, they remain passive causing them to withhold their views and do not express. In the process, they may not perform what their boss asked them to do and at the same time, they may not air their views as well. Slowly, they get sidelined and become aloof to the team and the leader.

Effective Follower: Such people score high on independent and critical thinking. At the same time, they are active people who express and debate with their leaders. They need to be convinced and heard by their leaders. They may even recommend and suggest a few ideas. In a meeting, you can see them questioning their bosses fearlessly. When utilised well, they can add much to the team’s effectiveness.

How the follower types impact leadership?

From the above four types, you can visualise which one will be good for a team. Certainly, the effective followers are an asset to the team because they try to lift the performance of the team. However, they are difficult people to maintain. Some leaders may not like their followers questioning them openly. But if the leader is mature enough, they like to be surrounded by effective followers.

On the other hand, think of other three types. An ‘Aloof’ follower is also difficult to maintain in a team. Moreover, they may spread negativity about the leader in private. Primarily they are passive people with independent thinking. Because of which they cannot accept the leader and at the same time, they do not express with courage. Consequently, they resort to negative talk which will pull down the morale of the team.

Many leaders may find ‘yes boss’ type of leaders very loyal and resourceful. With such people, implementation of leader’s ideas will be very fast. But they may not caution or question the leader in case leader falters. So, as long as the leader is sensible and competent, ‘yes boss’ followers are an asset.

Finally, if leaders end up encouraging a lot of ‘sheep’ around them, the overall effectiveness of the team will be low. However, an incompetent leader who is not confident of himself may prefer having ‘sheep’ around because they won’t be any threat to their position.

With this understanding, ask yourself: what kind of a follower are you to your leader? Are you pleasing your boss or making him/her more effective? Remember, by being an effective follower, you can nourish effective leadership and more importantly, being an effective follower is a prerequisite to grow as an effective leader.

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