Leadership And Followership: A Partnership

in Executive Board

by Lee Gray, Epsilon Chi (Elon U), International Vice President

Lee J Gray-Conv2019
Lee J. Gray, 2019-2021 International Vice President

We often talk about how AOII offers leadership experience, but I think the benefit is deeper.

Great leaders aren’t born, they are great followers first. Most articles, books and speakers focus on leadership lessons and leave out “followership” lessons as if somehow it is less important. Is it important? Why?

As a recently retired Brigadier General with 30 years in the U.S. Army, I served many leaders as a follower and then served as a leader. Followership lessons are critical to practice early and often. Being a good follower teaches you the details that matter, it teaches you how to become accountable and trustworthy. It is the training ground to learn, experiment and grow into a leader others will want to follow. A good follower is worth their weight in gold and I always gave them more responsibility and opportunity.

AOII is a voluntary organization, as is the U.S. Army. Both require an oath to follow their respective constitution, laws and rules. It’s a beautiful thing that we commit ourselves to our organization’s ideals. I love being a part of both!

Our organization is more than just volunteers, it needs structure and processes, so we elect, appoint or hire people to get the work of the fraternity done. As I think about our collegiate chapters and their officers, I reflect on my time at Epsilon Chi (Elon U) not realizing I was learning how to follow and lead in my own chapter’s roles and duties. This created a solid foundation for my military and civilian careers. Today, I want our collegians and volunteers to recognize how important and what an honor being a good follower really is, and that it is a sign of respect, love and character to support one another.

I feel so strongly about how important followership is for leadership development that in my professional career I often put it in writing when doing periodic counseling with my subordinate officers. Many people may have seen this list floating around the internet or in print, and I can tell you from experience they work and are critical “followership” traits. I cultivated these traits early in my life and I know they made a huge difference in my performance and ultimately continued to open doors as my skills and experience grew. This great article also provides more context to each “trait.”

Here is how to become the best follower you can, a critical step to being a good leader!

10 Things (Traits) That Require Zero Talent

  1. Being on time
  2. Work Ethic
  3. Effort
  4. Body Language
  5. Energy
  6. Attitude
  7. Passion
  8. Being Coachable
  9. Doing Extra
  10. Being Prepared
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