It’s true that experiences are the best teachers. Listening to your experiences can help you with self leadership. With top 5 lists of “must do’s” and career articles on initiative and development for success in the workplace, we can unanimously agree that you just don’t learn from a textbook in college, or any article for that matter. While some time has passed since I’ve opened a textbook, a lot of the knowledge and emotional intelligence that I’ve acquired is from being on the job and being a great follower. You see, companies focus on taking their leadership to the next level, but there isn’t much of an emphasis on what you can do to become a great follower. I adopted my supervisor’s style of writing 

I realized early on that adapting my style would take me further in my career than anything else.

I adopted my supervisor’s style of writing – which was short and succinct, but had enough detail to cover my bases – then, added my own personal touches to make it more of my own. I always included a greeting and signature and always asked how the other person was doing. This made me feel more approachable and it made the tone of my message easier to decipher. It was what cracked the most “straight to business” readers, creating better working partnerships in the long run.

I don’t think you can be a good follower if you don’t know where your leader is headed 

I learned to ask questions. Though I’m guilty of not doing it enough, I learned to always ask questions as it pertains to clarity or context. No question is a dumb question and I found that chances are, if you’re debating on whether or not to ask that question, someone else in the room is too. As we’ve all heard from a teacher sometime in school, just ask the question! I don’t think you can be a good follower if you don’t know where your leader is headed.

Finally and the most important – I showed trustworthiness. You should be trustworthy enough to get the job done, to be a reliable member of the team, to always be on your game. You should also be trustworthy enough to have the opportunity to work collaboratively. I love these opportunities to work with different functions and areas of expertise. It shakes up my day-to-day responsibilities and teaches me a thing or two about other people’s work and their challenges.

These ideas help me be a good follower, and to build my career as an invaluable member of the team. But it shouldn’t stop here. Take a look at your way of communicating and contributing at work. What can you do to be more of a follower? What have your experiences taught you about the workplace? Now do it.


Jessica Schor is a 20-something transplant to Houston, Texas from New York City. With a Learning and Development background and Employee Relations experience at a Fortune 300 company, we think Jess has probably just about seen it all in Human Resources.  She is a contributing writer, brainstorming partner and a fave in our OLG community. She builds relationships well in all levels of leadership, is PDI 360, Situational Leadership, and Conflict Dynamics Profile certified. If you are interested in connecting with Jess, you can find her on LinkedIn by clicking here

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