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For Better Teams, Hire Fewer Leaders

For many jobs, the followership ability is more useful than leadership ability.

When bosses are asked what they're looking for in an employee, most of them put "leadership ability" near the top of the list.  With all due respect, this is not the best idea.

Leadership sounds like a wonderful thing for everyone on a team to possess but a team that has more than one leader inevitably gets pulled in multiple directions.

Which means you're probably going nowhere.

Unless you're specifically hiring for a management position, you're better off looking for a job candidate with followership ability.

Good followers can put their own egos aside and do what you want done, whether or not they think it's the right thing to do.

Good followers put their creativity to work, not in setting grand visions, but instead by finding better and faster ways to do what you want done.

Good followers can be smarter than you and possess skills you lack... but they still trust that you know how they can best apply their brains and talents for the greater good.

Followership is the reason sports teams behave like teams; it's why armies don't crumble in combat; it's why great religions survive for centuries.

Frankly, some of the worst run organizations in the world are those that have too many leaders. Take Congress, for instance. Need I say more?

If your hiring practices seek candidates with leadership ability, you might want to consider whether a good follower might be a better fit for many or most of those jobs.

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Last updated: Oct 15, 2013


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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