I grew up watching Power Rangers with my older brother and along with watching came the tradition of picking “your character”. Of course, my older brother always picked the red ranger because that was the certifiable leader of the team year after year. I would always be sad because no matter how great of a character I picked they would only be a follower and wouldn’t matter. I thought my theory of the lesser nature of supporting characters was true, except it was often the supporting characters who saved the day along with the leader who relied on the strength of the team. As much as the red ranger exhibited good leadership, he had to exhibit great followership as well to listen to the advice of his team and the team’s mentor. Often overlooked is the ability to be a great follower.
I was sold on attending Texas A&M by my department because it is a place where I am supposed to leave a leader. Hours and hours have been spent being taught what a good leader is and what a bad leader is. Leaders need to have judgment, work ethic, be willing to listen, have the courage to make tough decisions, and the humility to check their ego. The same way that leadership is driven to be studied with rigor, so too should followership be given such detail. Being a good follower is not just about being coachable, rather a good follower thinks critically on how to best reach the goal of the collective group embodying the same qualities that I just stated for a leader. The more I study followership, the more I see that
The relationship between leadership and followership is a fluid. In reality, we are both leaders and followers at the same time. As an academic mentor, I lead student-athletes in navigating their coursework. As they follow my guidance, these student-athletes lead their own teams of peers, and I follow the scholastic supervisors who follow the Associate AD. An infinite loop of interdependency exists, and this loop is predicated on being a good follower and leader when the time is right. A leader and follower, connotations aside, are merely tools for organizations and groups to divvy up the responsibility to accomplish a common goal. The strength of a wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf. Let us all strengthen ourselves and our pack, the collegiate athletics industry, by being just as eager and adept at following as we are at leading realizing that the skills needed in both are the same.
Erick Taylor is an aspiring college sports professional and MPSA candidate attending Texas A&M University. Originally from the Greater Atlanta area, Erick received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University, where he also served as a development intern for the Panther athletic department. A young, relatively inexperienced prospect in this industry, Erick is in search of the tools and skills required for success. By sharing his journey, he hopes to help others achieve their professional goals as well.