How to Be an Influential Follower (Part 1)

Lead your boss


No matter your position you likely have a boss or person of authority above you. There is a very small amount of leaders who have no one above them. Formal University President Robert Kelley said, “The reality is that most of us are more often followers than leaders. Even when we have subordinates, we still have bosses.” Whether you have a leadership title or not, you have the potential to have influence with your leader. Here are the first two ways to be an influential follower.

1. Serve your leader

William Osler said, “We are here to add what we can, not get what we can from life.” The primary way for us to do this is to serve. Serving produces influence. The most influential followers regularly chose to demonstrate acts of servanthood with those in power above them. Your mindset should be to genuinely serve them with no strings attached. Acts of service could be stepping in to support during times of crisis, asking your boss if you could do anything for them or if they need help with anything, encouraging and publicly praising them, or giving them a gift. Each of these examples of servanthood can increase your level of influence with your boss. The key is to find the ways that would best serve your boss.

2. Exceed the expectations of your leader

Leaders can expect their followers to fulfill the minimum job requirements and job functions. A lot of workers are fine with being an average worker, that is coming to work and doing only what is expected. There are other people who always go above and beyond what is expected of them. These followers constantly over deliver, stay productive, and exceed everyone’s expectations.

In The Leadership Mandate I wrote how you can exceed expectations in a work environment. I suggested, “Requesting or taking on extra work, finding and solving department or organizational problems, volunteering to help with a project or a team member, building team unity, and bringing innovative ideas to your boss or during meetings.” Your goal should be to make your boss marvel with your good work ethics. You will be an influential follower if you do more than what is required of you.

Question: What would you add, how can a person be an influential follower?

Subscribe to Dan Black on Leadership to receive fresh leadership content delivered to you inbox. PLUS two free quote books. All you need to do is to enter your email in the box below then push “Subscribe”:

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

14 thoughts on “How to Be an Influential Follower (Part 1)

  1. My husband is sales vp and is struggling with employees who are not good followers. They whine a lot and want the job tailored to their needs. Seems like good followers like this are so very hard to find these days.

    • They can be hard to fined. A leader should train and be a role model of what they want their followers to do. For example showing servant leadership will more than likely bread people who are willing to serve, it can be passed down to the staff. Thank you for commenting.

  2. Going with #1 on being a servant: I always teach that you want to share your motives with your boss if you are going to lead up. Let your boss know that you are there to improve the team or help them get better. Too many people think they are leading if they are playing devil’s advocate. That only works if we are doing it to make the situation better. Otherwise it is seen as complaining. Check your motives and share them.

  3. I try to visit personally with all my teammates, which helps me have a good pulse on what’s going on with our team.

    Additionally, I try to work on some discussion points in private with my leader, instead of embarrassing them in front of the team.

    One last way is to help my leader gain credibility in areas they may be lacking it in a positive, proactive way.

    • That’s a great way to stay connected. I do the same with my staff. Great additional point, helping your leader gain credibility is a great way to increase your influence with them. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  4. I was talking with my 5 year old yesterday about how even he has people who look up to him (younger kids) and how he doesn’t need to “teach” them anything, all he needs to do is be himself and they will see how to behave. Actions speak louder than words. Live by example.
    I thought of that as I read your post.
    Boss’s see if an employee is going the extra mile, if their words match their actions.
    Christ not only told people how to live, He demonstrated it.
    We influence people more with actions than we ever will with words.

    Great post.

  5. Good post, Dan. I agree. It doesn’t matter who you are, in the end even if you’re the person where the buck stops doesn’t mean you don’t answer to somebody. The truth is the more customers you have the more people you have to please; no easy task in today’s day and age.

    Like all gifts from God this one starts best on the foundation of humility in my opinion.

  6. hey Dan, I’ve seen people who outperform and go out of their way to improve their leader’s life get more responsibility and recognition. People who give more, do more and exceed expectations will be noticed and noticed very quickly because they are a select few.