How to Stop Being a Follower and Become a SMART Leader

By David S. Chang

Being a SMART follower is an important skill. You need to be able to listen, take instruction from others, and work well as a team. Being able to follow helps you become a better leader. Taking the leap from being a follower to a leader isn’t as easy you would think.

Becoming a SMART leader is about more than being in charge or just giving orders. You need to be able to lead by example, be self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and properly motivate your team. Here are some steps you need to take if you are ready to become the SMART leader you want to be!

Start by Being a Good Follower

SMART leaders are only ever as effective as their ability to engage their followers. You can’t be a leader without having followers, and that means knowing what it means to be a follower.

According to Harvard Business Research “People will be more effective leaders when their behaviors indicate that they are one of us, because they share our values, concerns and experiences, and are doing it for us, by looking to advance the interests of the group rather than own personal interests.”

In other words, distancing yourself from your followers is a recipe for failure. Adopting behaviors that people associate with leaders rather than followers can backfire. Those who want to lead are better served by first striving to follow.

Seek Out Opportunities to Be a Leader

Be proactive. Look for opportunities to lead and serve. This will help you prove your skillset and continuously improve. If you want to be a leader, you need to find, and sometimes create, opportunities for yourself.

If you take the opportunity to lead and work at levels above your current job or pay-level, when it comes time for promotion, you have already proven your abilities. Don’t take the attitude that you will do more if you are paid more, but take the attitude that you should be paid more because you are doing more.

Assess and Understand Your Strengths

Good leaders have a high degree of self-awareness. They know their impact on others and know what their weaknesses and know what their strengths are. This will help you understand what areas you need to work on, and what skills you can leverage the most to have the greatest impact.

Different leaders lead in different ways. There is no cookie-cutter recipe for being a great leader. Being a great leader means taking your personal skills into account. Think about the ways that you have used your strengths in the past and what skills differentiate you from other people. Once you have identified your strengths, you can find ways to grow and develop them.

Improve Your Professional Knowledge

While you can develop your leadership skills while on the job or by seeking other leadership opportunities, continue to develop your knowledge and skills through further education.

Formal education can help you gain more opportunities. If you don’t have the resources or time for a full-time degree, look to take classes in certain specialties or certifications that give you a leg-up. It can make it easier to find the opportunities that you want.

Choose a well-known certification for the field you are in. If you are in project management, the PMP Exam Certification can significantly augment your pay range and benefits. Continuing education can also help you stay ahead of the curve in today’s economy.

Focus on Your Communication Skills

Image from PixabayPixabay License

Good communication is vital for any leader. You won’t get far if you’re unable to communicate with people who have different styles in different situations. You need to develop a wide range of communication skills, from negotiation skills, conflict management, public speaking, and even being able to craft a good email.

A good leader should be able to identify their message and adapt it for the audience that they’re communicating with. There are plenty of ways to improve your communication skills, so find opportunities that allow you to practice and learn.

Knowing How to Motivate and Inspire

Being a good leader means knowing when and how to give people the motivation and encouragement they need to get the job done. Leadership is about influencing others to do things they normally wouldn’t do. Being inspirational helps others to follow you, especially in difficult circumstances.

Motivating people means being able to identify what truly inspires loyal human beings to enthusiastically perform at a high level. You need to understand that emotions are at the root of human motivation. It’s how people “feel” that drive motivation. Learn to create the right atmosphere for motivating others. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things

A good leader doesn’t get stuck in their ways. If you want to move from being a follower to a leader, you need to be prepared to move out of your comfort zone. Being a leader involves learning new skills and being willing to keep developing your leadership abilities.

Even if you are experienced and have been in leadership positions for a long time, we all still have plenty to learn. Things are changing all the time, and you can always discover new ways to approach your leadership role.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

The one thing that many people hope for at work is to have a leader and not just a boss. A boss will tell you what to do. A leader will show you how and why to do it. There is a big difference. Many people equate a position with being a leader, but it is important to know that a title doesn’t make you a leader.

Bosses know the ins and outs of their field, while leaders know the ins and outs of how to deal with people. Bosses will focus on accomplishing a task, while a leader will focus on developing others. Leaders want to leave a legacy greater than themselves. Knowing these differences will help you grow as a true leader instead of just being a follower with a leadership title.

David S. Chang

Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Wealth Manager and CEO | Chief Editor, Author, Keynote Speaker, Consultant | Political Consultant | Army Officer National Guard | Living To Fulfill Needs, Solve Problems, and Live Passionately!


FREE Download!

5 Awesome Tips to SMART Productivity

A Step-by-Step Process on How to be More Effective and Efficient at Life!

Top Financial Advisor Blogs And Bloggers – Rankings From Nerd’s Eye View |

Get ATS Updates in Your Inbox!

Get the latest from the ATS blog delivered right to your inbox!

Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.