Have you been disappointed because you didn’t receive the promotion you were hoping for? Maybe you were trying to move from a training specialist position into a supervisor or manager role, but your company hired someone from the outside instead. You could beat yourself up because you weren’t good enough … or you could consider that your success is not dependent on becoming a leader of people.

You could be far more successful (and less stressed) going down a different road. You could be a great follower, instead! Despite what many believe, followers are vital to organizations. Without great followers, businesses fail.

Defining Success

The key to being a great follower is first to create your personal definition of success. Higher income is usually perceived as an indicator of success, but it should not be your only definition of success. Money is not a lasting motivator. What’s more, achieving a certain salary does not often lead to a feeling of accomplishment.

Consider other definitions of success that can be more satisfying. For example, because you are in the training industry, you probably value the opportunity to continue learning on the job. Increasing your knowledge might, then, be important for you to include in your definition of success. Another success indicator might be flexibility of place or time — or both. When you finally are in a role where you can have the work/life balance that suits you, you may feel successful.

Or, an increase in prestige might be your success indicator. In this case, prestige isn’t necessarily about a job title or a position of authority. Prestige is recognition based on your achievements. When your definition of success includes prestige, your goal is to attain an outstanding reputation in your organization and perhaps beyond.

While these definitions are good, you might consider putting several together to arrive at your unique version of success. This definition may sound something like this:

Success is being at a place in my career where I’m still learning, I’m being paid appropriately for my expertise and experience, my life is balanced like I want it to be, and I am recognized for what I contribute.

When you read that definition, did it resonate with you? Maybe you would place more emphasis on one or two elements. For example, having the opportunity to continue learning on the job may be more important to you than being recognized for your contribution.

Make your definition clear and specific. What do you mean when you define your success as being in a position with good work/life balance? A better way to include that idea in your success statement might be, “Success is being in a position that allows me to have flexible start and end times or where I can work remotely one day per week.”

If you’re serious about achieving success, you don’t want to become sidetracked by opportunities that don’t help you move toward your goal. Writing down your success statement will help you stay focused on your objective.

Achieving Success

Once you’ve created your definition of success, you can focus on what you need to do to achieve it. One of the important elements of being a successful follower is setting and understanding your own goals. Set SMART (smart, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) goals around achieving your definition of success. Be sure to take your values and motivators into account when setting your goals. They will help you make clear choices about those goals and the next steps to take.

Keep in mind that for many people, success is not a single destination but a journey. Once you’ve achieved the level of success you are aiming for, you may start looking for more — and that’s OK! When you reach that point, reevaluate where you are, what is important to you and what you believe success will look like. Then, set new goals based on your new version of success.

On the flip side, it’s also OK to be content with where you are. There is a stigma associated with staying put, but you might have attained your success goals, and you might be happy with the position you’re in, the responsibilities you have and your level of growth. Don’t let others push you to keep going. There may come a time that you want something different, but it’s certainly not mandatory. Again, take stock of what you value and whether you truly want to accomplish something different before you take the next step.

So, what are you waiting for? Start defining and achieving your (non-leadership) success today

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