Being in a FollowingIf a young man wanted to be schooled well in weaponry, or win glory or booty, he could join a nobleman and become his follower: He would have to swear loyalty to his new leader and, from now on, fight for him. In return the leader accepted him into his house-sharing community and gave him board, shelter, gear and equipment, shares of booty, and gifts.
The followers had the meals together with their leader. They accompanied him, they went to war with him, and they had the duty to fight for him until death - it was an irredeemable shame to survive your leader.
Every follower had to protect his leader but try at the same time to surpass him in bravery. Likewise the leader had to try to show more bravery than his followers. But also among the followers there was competition as to who was the best, and who would be the leader's favorite man. However, amongst themselves, they were expected to keep peace - only the leader mediated their disputes.
Of course, such a group made a living from warfare and raids. If your own tribe wasn't waging a war, you could join other tribes involved in wars, or you could launch attacks and raids yourself: In order to propitiate his followers, an army leader had to be generous. Thus, he depended on war booty.
When having many brave followers, a leader enjoyed a great reputation. Other gaus or tribes could then send delegations to him, ask him for help, intervention or defensive alliances, and honor him with gifts.
Certainly the followers had a reputation, too. Though they had to fight for their leader, nobody could expect them to do labor. Tacitus reports that you could 'hardly persuade them to plough the land ... they think it spiritless and stupid to acquire by their sweat what they can gain by their blood.' Correspondingly, their time was marked by idleness, eating, sleeping and hunting - occasionally interrupted by bloody raids.
After a few years most men left the following to get married and set up their own household.