During my summer internship one phrase was sure to be said in the office everyday by one of my superiors: teamwork makes the dream work. A simple phrase that means just what it says. It takes more than a leader to run an effective team, it takes a group of people willing to follow that leader. In college courses and even in the real world, it is common for leadership skills to be stressed. Students are always encouraged to take on leadership positions in the classroom and within student organizations. While learning to be an affective leader is extremely important, it is equally as important to learn how to be a good follower.
In public relations, there is no room for big egos and power struggles. Projects in PR usually require the cooperation of many people with different personalities. You may find yourself answering to a superior who you do not agree or get along with. Personal feelings and biases aside, it is important to know how to respond to, work with, and respect those put in leadership positions. When you find yourself taking the follower role, be sure to remember these points:
- Patience is a virtue: Even in public relations, not everything is going to happen when you want it to happen. If someone leading you, your team, or your group maps out a plan that takes more time that you think necessary, bare with it. Everything will pan out in due time.
- Listen before you speak: Do not automatically put down the ideas of others. Listen intently, take notes when others speak, and ask questions about points you are unclear of. Interrupting and interjecting your own thoughts and opinions while others are speaking will deem you rude and unable to cooperate. It is okay to disagree, but make sure you have a reason to first.
- Keep the leader in the loop: Especially in larger groups or teams, it is virtually impossible for the leader to be everywhere at once. If something or someone isn’t upholding the vision of the leader, which should also be the vision of the team, be sure to let the leader know in a respectful and courteous way.
- Respect, Respect, Respect: Always remember that the leader is just that: a leader. You should treat your leader with high levels of respect at all times. Even if you have a casual relationship with someone in a leadership role, you should always remain professional and remember to respect boundaries.