• Published
  • By Master Sgt. Robert Jackson
  • 509th Communications Squadron First Sergeant
All of us have been part of some task that required someone to make a decision for everyone else to follow.

Followership is a cornerstone of leadership and mission effectiveness. Unfortunately, there is a misconception that we all must be leaders to have mission effectiveness. If this were true, we would have a tough time accomplishing the simplest task.

When was the last time you had a group project stalemate because everyone wanted to lead? Many times to get the project done the legitimate leader will assert themselves to get team members to become effective followers. Morale lowers, emotions get in the way and the result might not be the best when everyone leads and nobody follows.

In all forums of military education, we teach more about leadership and managing than how to follow effectively, but, we spend more time being a follower than most people realize. Being a good follower enables leaders to be more effective at accomplishing the mission by doing what is expected willingly and without argument. It takes both leaders and followers to ensure we remain the world's premier Air Force. In order to understand the connection between the leader and follower, let us look at followership and its benefits.

Followership can be defined as the capacity and willingness to follow a leader. Many new Airmen might not understand the mission or their role in accomplishing the mission. When our Airmen do not understand how they influence the overall mission, it becomes hard for them to follow willingly. In short, they need "buy in" to understand that what they do matters towards the overall goal of keeping America safe. We can become cynical when we just do what we are told day in and out. Simply doing what you are told does have its place in the military but we need to think about the bigger picture and realize the importance of following leaders.

Followers allow the mission to succeed because, by effectively following, you become the leader. You have shown the capacity and willingness necessary to take ownership of your mission.

As a first sergeant, I am viewed as a leader when in reality I am more of a follower implementing and enforcing a commander's programs and policies. In order to be an effective leader, I must lead by example. That is followership and it is the cornerstone of leadership and mission accomplishment.

To be a leader you must follow first. Everyone in the military has a leader appointed over them from the commander in chief down. At every level, you will find a great follower leading us in accomlishment of the overall mission.

Teamwork between the leader and follower enables us to succeed and you cannot have one without the other and still be successful at what you do. Therefore, my challenge to you for the next time you are asked to follow, take a moment to realize that you are now leading those who you contact whether you acknowledge it or not. You must ask yourself if you are going to be a good leader or a bad leader. I know you will make the right choice by effectively following.