Three business students from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration learned the importance of followership at the 2014 United States Naval Academy Leadership Conference. Now they will carry the message to students in Nebraska to show how followership and leadership go hand-in-hand.
“The focus of the conference was learning how to lead by being a great follower,” said Erik Nelson, a sophomore actuarial science major from St. Charles, Ill. “Even though the word leadership is thrown around a lot, we learned the core premise of group success happens through followership. That taught me leadership is more complex than I thought.”
Nelson pointed out there is a continuum between leadership and followership.
“You’re never one without the other. As an instructor in the classroom you are a follower to the dean. As a dean of the college you are a follower to the chancellor. There is no single time when you are just a leader or just a follower. It’s interesting to think about mixing leadership and followership and encourage others to play both roles. How can I serve you to be a better leader?” said Nelson.
Alex Kindopp, Courtney Faber, Erik Nelson
Alex Kindopp, a sophomore actuarial science major from Watertown, S.D., returned from the conference impressed with the speakers, which included Navy SEALS, astronauts, CIA agents, Harvard professors and most prominent, former U.S. vice president and secretary of defense Dick Cheney.
“Although ideas of leadership can be elaborate, I was struck with how simple it really is – be excellent,” said Kindopp. “Be excellent to yourself, to the people around you and the place that you’re in. Just be excellent and others will follow.”
Now the three attendees have the opportunity to share their leadership skills at CBA. Courtney Faber, a junior accounting and marketing major from Lenexa, Kan., is vice president of the Undergraduate Women in Business student organization.
“When I talk to our group, I’m going to focus on followership,” said Faber. “It can improve our organization by helping people feel comfortable coming forward with ideas. That in turn will balance the dynamic between leadership and followership.”
Nelson mentors junior counselors as a member of the Nebraska Human Resources Institute. What he learned at the conference will change how he approaches the students he mentors.
“I thought I would help those I mentor be very vocal and stand up for what is right. Now I’m more focused on instilling good followership skills, because eventually those followership qualities produce excellent leaders,” said Nelson.
The conference was held at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., from January 26-29.