A leader worth following


A story tells of a highly decorated group of military leaders who succeed in building a computer that can solve any strategic or tactical problem. It will be a great tool to help them make decisions.

They all gather around in front of the computer and input a complicated tactical problem to know the output. They describe a hypothetical situation to the computer and then ask the pivotal question: ATTACK or RETREAT? The computer hums and begins processing the data. After a few seconds, it comes up with an answer.

The answer was just one word: “YES.”

The highly decorated generals look at each other, somewhat stupefied. Until one of them submits a second request to the computer: YES WHAT?

Everybody waits, and then the computer responds: “YES, SIR!”

Sometimes things like this happen in the workplace. The leader asks a question, and the answer given is a non-answer and does not help much. Sometimes it is worse. The leader asks a question, and even though the people know that the leader’s decision or plan of action may not be right, they just want to please the leader, and they say, “Yes Sir or Yes Mam!”

Am I a leader who is worth following? It is a question I need to ask myself all the time. A leader has followers. It has been said that “He who thinks is leading, with nobody following, is merely taking a walk!” But having followers is not in itself an ideal thing. Cults, dictators, criminals have followers, but it is not good leadership. This leader may not be worth following when no one dares to challenge, suggest or even correct the leader if the decision is a good one.


It is tough to follow an incompetent leader. One reason is that you do not learn, and second, you may end up doing most of the work and taking most of the blame. In certain situations, there are not many opportunities to build relationships, but people follow the leader because of his or her production and results. This is a shallow level, but certain organizational structures are designed this way, specifically those that are project-based. Once the project is over, everything is over unless you are re-assigned to the same leader in another project.


Some leaders are competent, but at the same time, are rude and arrogant. This is not a good thing. Jim Collins’ research, supported by meta-data, has convincingly proven that those who are considered “Level 5 leader” or those who are respected and admired, are so because they exhibit humility.

Humility is the primary differentiator between good and outstanding leadership. Humble leaders are secure, and they know that their primary concern is not about feeding their ego, but on doing what is best for the team and how to serve them well.

Passing on the credit

Good leaders give credit to the team for wins and victories. Yet, good leaders own up and take responsibility for negative things or challenges.

Integrity and trustworthiness

People follow you because you are predictable. They do not have to suspect or watch your every move. They know that you mean what you say, and you say what you mean. Your words and actions are predictably in sync. Your private walk matches your public talk. They follow you without having to fear that you may have some ulterior motive and will work on some things that will fulfill your interests, that you will treat each person fairly and with respect. Where there is no trust, there is no leadership. Everything is just “play-acting.”

Emotionally stable

You do not fly off the handle. You do not have tantrums. You are calm and rational, and they feel safe in your presence. You are emotionally intelligent, and you exhibit hope and optimism.


The more teachable the leaders are, the more people will love to follow such a leader. In case you have not yet noticed, it all boils down to competence and character for people to follow you. Good leaders have so much stuff as they continue to learn, so people follow you. They also admire you because you show vulnerability and are willing to be corrected.

This time, when you ask them a question, the response and the conversation will be engaging, and the response will not just be a customary, “Yes Sir!.”



(Francis Kong’s highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership Master Class online will be held from Aug. 25 to 27. Develop your leadership skills that translate into personal, career, and business growth. For inquiries and reservations, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)

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