I have already penned a few articles here on my opinion of what makes a good leader, the traits shown by our best managers and boss es to get the job done with dignity and enthusiasm and inspire us all to work more productively.
But there's another side of the coin as well – being a good follower. As much as a good leader is essential to team performance, being a good student is just as important. It's the difference between having a good attitude at work and a poor attitude; between showing respect and earning respect. A poor follower drags the team down and leaves a bad example for the others, hopefully not to be replicated. A poor follower demonstrates abilities that leave us all wondering, "how did you get hired here?". And we don't want to be that guy!
Being a good follower, a good employee, is the best way to stay a firm course through your position at work now, and the best way to make yourself a candidate for recognition and promotion. And who doesn't want to look good?
1. Leave the ego at home
I remember getting over this hurdle when I was in my early twenties. As soon as we start working and begin reaching our prescribed milestones we develop a sense of achievement. This can affect our ego with long lasting effects if we don't realize it happening and nip it in the butt.
Many kids continue on a stream of reaching their set goals without any let, as they reach new salary levels and job positions quickly. This develops an ego of invincibility into adulthood and develops the leaders that we do not like. It makes someone feel like they have always been the best at what they do, which may not be false, but does not allow room for outside influence to improve themselves as much as it should. They shut down other ideas because their ideas already work.
If you want to be a good follower, you must leave the ego at home. Even if you have achieved all you want, one must be humble to accept ideas and solutions from others and keep a level temperament.
2. Being a good listener
Being a good listener does not mean just following the rules, but thinking about them, observing them, enforcing them and using that framework to embetter the workplace for everyone. It means taking an idea that has been suggested and not only doing it, but succeeding it by passing it to others and in course, leading by the example set forth. To be a good follower is to listen to the rules but to be a good leader is to start here by influencing others.
3. Keep a level head
We have to deal with bosses, we have to deal with people below and above us. Our greatest strength at this level is the ability to keep a level temperament throughout the day while we deal with the mirth of people we have to associate with, from customers to upper management. Showing our rigidity in a number of situations makes us look powerful and stern. We are mature enough to handle the ebb and flow of work and life and not be raised too much in any one way throughout the day.
People who cannot keep a level head during times of momentary stress throughout the day seem inexperienced or even immature. To recognize that we all have good and bad days is an essential quality of the working day because we do. To be able to accept all of that with a smile and fight through it is our strength.
4. Leave the issues at home
This is hard to do if we have a heavy burden at home, but it is important to show to our colleagues and supervisors that we can stay focussed at work and not bring others into our dramatic life equations. If your home or social life is so disturbed that you cannot focus at work, perhaps you should take an absence (although I think work is the best way to get your mind off things!). However, staying strong and determined through your work day demonstrates strength through fire and your peers will look up to you for motivation in the future as they see you endure your struggles. You will inspire others, and what better way to overcome something than that?
5. Doing the dirty work
This goes with #1's point about ego. Remember that no matter how high you are, you are never above doing the work below you. If he/she can do it, so can you. I knew one girl who tried to leave a well paying waiting job to start a wedding planning business. Due to market oversaturation her business failed quickly and she went back to the restaurant with her tail between her legs, making a few jokes along the way. It seemed to others that she was above serving tables, despite the high pay and relative ease. It's a bad example to set for others. You are never above doing the "dirty work," we are all in this together.