I have been known to devour an entire season of serial television in one fell swoop. I love the way in which the stories keep me coming back for more. Now, with The Walking Dead on hiatus, my recent attention has turned toward Game of Thrones.There is a scene in episode two of the second season entitled “The North Remembers” in which Commander Mormant asks Jon Snow if he someday wants to be a leader. Upon Jon’s affirmative response, Mormant replies, “Learn how to follow.”
This phrase struck me. I rewatched it several times attempting to discover why it resonated so strongly with me. Like most people, I sometimes view leadership as an activity that happens at the front of the pack, rather than from the midst of that pack. Commander Mormant reminded me that leadership is much more than being in front.
Strong leaders have a great deal in common with those who are great followers. More than that, learning how to be a good follower is essential in becoming an effective leader. Excellent followers, those referred to as “star followers” by author Robert Kelley, tend to work passionately toward the success of the organization in which they work. Their approach to the task at hand - active, engaged, positive - sets them apart from their peers. Great leaders can learn a tremendous amount from great followers, in that their followers, like Jon Snow to Commander Mormant, embody what is awesome about the organization and its leadership.
Think about outstanding leaders. These are people who are passionate, people who are driven to succeed, people who value those around them, and people who are quick to share praise and adulation with their team members. All of these traits emerge from lessons learned as an engaged follower.
So, if you want to be a great leader, take Commander Mormant’s advice, become a great follower.