If one were to take a look at leaders and review their background to assess where they have been and what have they done; one will obviously find out that at some point in their career they were followers. It is not likely that one will be placed in a leadership role automatically and immediately understand the complexities of what is involved with leadership execution. During the process of following a leader, some will observe the leader as constantly asking questions and go on a course of advising; what many followers do not realize; is that during such observations what is actually transpiring is that the follower is developing leadership skills. What in essence is happening; is what some call transformational leadership; that being, during the course of being led one is also transforming through identifying leadership skills which can be used at a future date on a particular task or mission.
The interactive transformation that takes place between the follower and the leader is a process of inquiring based on a give and take process; such as giving advice and taking the feedback from the followers to incorporate anticipated changes. The important aspects to keep in mind during the phase of following; with the intent of being a leader in a future date; is to understand the important skill of listening. Now, I know you have probably heard that before a thousand times, but, the fact of the matter is that listening is an art and a task. Listening is amongst the most difficult task in the science of human behavior. Listening is a core central variable in the science of communications and it requires a true sense of commitment in the relationship between the follower and leader. And, it requires an astute action of listening with your eyes while you incorporate the demeanor of being flexible to thought processes of leadership based on an agreed upon style between the follower and the leader.
The relationship between follower and leader must be one based on teaching; and appreciation. The relationship between follower and leader will be non-existent if neither has a sense of appreciation for one another and if there is no sense of valuing each other's talents and tasks which have been accomplished. One must remember that followers of an organization are not owned; followers don't "belong" to the leader. Followers are in a position to follow, to complete a task; just like the leader. The two are part of a mission to accomplish a certain task; therefore they are working together in association to fulfill a certain objective. In essence the functional role of respect between the two ought to be based more as "associates", giving way to the open flow of interactive dialogue that will enhance the communications between the two and alleviating any potential issues of attitude; which then becomes a behavioral issue.
During World War II America was equipped with an extraordinary group of generals that were quite talented with various styles and management practices. Four that come to mind was the General of the Joint Chief of Staff reporting directly to the President General Dwight D. Eisenhower (later President Eisenhower), General Omar Bradley, General Douglas Macarthur, and General George C. Patton. Now, there is a reason why I named these General in that order, General Eisenhower and Bradley had similar management styles both were what many called the soldiers generals; in that they appeared to be a bit more sensitive to soldiers needs and concern about how the public thought of them as it pertained to how they treated their soldiers, they were concerned with the public view about and how they were perceived by the public. General Macarthur and Patton were similar in that they were more focus of being victorious with their mission's, battles and tasks at any cost; as long as they were victorious. Though they were great Generals they and cared less about the public's perception of them as long as the public knew them to be Generals that were victorious on a consistent basis and the enemy knew of them as being beyond worthy opponents. All four Generals had a deep sense of appreciation for their men and valued their commitment for their county deeply. Anyone who served with these great men were followers who in their own lives became leaders and probably led from some of the leadership virtues and perspectives that were bestowed upon them by the Generals they served under. The relationship between the following solider and the leading General was an interactive role between the two founded on the principals of respect and a true sense of loyalty to each other.