Are Followers About to Get Their Due?

Online forum now closed. Leadership may be much-discussed, but followership merits equal attention, suggests HBS professor Jim Heskett. As a follower, what advice would you give other followers who want to have an impact on their jobs and organizations? As a leader, what do you do to foster good followership?
by Jim Heskett

Summing Up

Are leadership and followership joined at the hip? It seems impossible to separate the two. They are reflective of one another. These are two of the predominant opinions expressed in one way or another by respondents to this month's column. Phil Clark commented: "Leadership and followership dynamics are really one and the same. Those who lead in one instance may follow in another." As C. J. Cullinane put it, "... to be a great leader you first have to be at some time in your career a great follower." Jeremy Vogan added, "... oftentimes the only real difference between a great leader and a great follower in the business world is the opportunities they have had to better themselves." Eric Johnson Wildbear concurred, saying that "Followership ends up being the same as leadership, only from a different perspective in the organization ...." According to Mohammad Razipour, "In business, where we are talking about 'co-creation,' 'integration,' 'participation,' and 'collective wisdom,' we should not draw a sharp line between ... them (leadership and followership)." Dora Bonnet says, "I like the idea of followers and leaders 'walking together.' You never know when you have to exchange roles."

As a result, while several respondents seemed to favor the inclusion of material concerning followership in a course on leadership, there did not seem to be a strong push for separate attention to the matter of followership in a business school curriculum. Several expressed the belief that followership is too situational to constitute good material for study. Hemanshu Joshi said, "... followership is not a skill but a reaction." Surendranath A. commented, "Any kind of teaching on how to be a good follower may not help since it will depend on the style and type of leader ...." In Linda Joy Ortiz' words, "I do not think individuals would benefit from classes on followership ... following is basically an instinct and has more to do with individual character, culture, moral, and ethical traits and beliefs."

Respondents raised several interesting questions. In referring to author Barbara Kellerman's typology of followers (isolates, bystanders, participants, activists, and diehards), Kim Allen questioned whether we hire for the right traits. As she put it, "I find it interesting that most job descriptions imply that 'diehard' or 'activist' employees would serve the organization best. Typical desirable traits include 'passionate, dynamic, energetic, devoted.' Where are the calls for job applicants who are 'calm, clear-minded, interested, flexible, and even-keeled'?" Sameer Kamat asked whether Kellerman's categorization over-simplifies the issue and opines that "these are transient states that followers pass through in their careers." Sujeet Prabhu observed that "The five types of followers described by Barbara Kellerman seem to be mirror images of leadership styles." And H. C. Garner stated, "If you can't be led, you certainly can't effectively lead." And Bruce Duncil commented, "Leaders can only be defined by and through their following... Kellerman's noting a possible shift in power and influence from leaders to followers similarly suggests that the proper question is now ... 'are leaders about to get their due?'" What do you think?

Original Article

Recent books have examined every aspect of leadership. Few have addressed challenges for those of us who follow, that is to say everyone at some time in our lives. There are a few exceptions. Abraham Zaleznik wrote about "The Dynamics of Subordinacy" more than four decades ago. Fifteen years ago, Jack Gabarro and John Kotter published a piece called "Managing Your Boss," in which they advocated: (1) understanding your boss and his or her "goals and objectives, pressures, strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, and preferred work styles"; (2) understanding yourself and your needs, including "strengths and weaknesses, personal style, and predisposition toward dependence on authority figures"; and (3) developing and maintaining a relationship that is centered around such things as frequent communication, an understanding of mutual expectations, dependability and honesty, and selective use of "your boss's time and resources."

Now Barbara Kellerman in her new book, Followership, asks where leaders would be without good followers. This question may be particularly significant in an age when followers find it easier to organize by means of the Internet at the same time that, in Kellerman's opinion, "cultural constraints against taking on people in positions of power, authority, and influence have been weakened." Kellerman goes on to say: "The fact is that followers are gaining power and influence while leaders are losing power and influence." In fact, in recent years we have seen management experiments with teams in which it is difficult to identify a leader.

Kellerman describes five types of followers: isolates (completely detached), bystanders (observers only), participants (engaged), activists (who feel strongly and act accordingly, both with and against leaders), and diehards (deeply devoted). Dismissing the first two groups as antithethical to good followership, and by extension, potentially supportive of bad leadership (as in Nazi Germany), she focuses on behaviors of the other three types. Of these three, "participants" seem to me to offer the most potential for long-term, productive relationships between subordinates and their bosses, particularly in large organizations. Participants work hard either in support of or against the policies and practices of their leaders. As Kellerman puts it, "they care enough … to try to have an impact."

Clearly it's in the best interests of successful leaders to understand and capitalize on the needs of such subordinates. Leaders need to be constantly aware of something that several of us have discovered in our research: Every decision made by a leader—particularly decisions involving hiring, recognizing, and firing people—is judged by 10 or 15 subordinates, who regard the "fairness" of those decisions as one of the most important factors in the quality of their work life.

This observation raises some questions for us. As a follower, what advice would you give to other followers wishing to have an impact on their jobs and organizations? As a leader, what do you do to foster good followership? Why isn't followership addressed by business school curricula along with leadership? Does it belong in a course of study? Or does this just run the risk of deteriorating into a discussion of how to manipulate your boss? What do you think?

To Read More:

John J. Gabarro and John P. Kotter, "Managing Your Boss," Harvard Business Review, May-June, 1993

Barbara Kellerman, Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders (Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2008)

Abraham Zaleznick, "The Dynamics of Subordinacy," Harvard Business Review, May-June, 1965

    • Virginia Morgan
    • Administrator, Outreach Programs, AL Cooperative Extension System
    Interesting article. I have been in positions of leadership and followership in my organization and I think that being an engaged participant in the workings of the organization really helps move it forward, especially if leadership is willing to hear from followers. My advice to followers: be honest with your leadership. As a leader, trust those followers who are honest and listen to those who aren't afraid to bring forward opposing views. Reward those who understand and work toward the "greater good" of the organization.
    • Surendranath A
    • Director, Sumeru Human Asset Consultants
    Followership has to be addressed by the respective leader. As followers are of different types, the leader has to look into their roles in a team to strengthen the team effort. Any kind of teaching on how to be a good follower may not help since it will depend on the style and type of leader to whom the followers are tagged. The essential factor for followers adaptability is the leadership style. Followers must observe the style and behavior of their leader apart from the needs and priorities of their leader in accomplishing the team targets. Any course on followership aiming at how to manage the leader does certainly lead to manipulations and encourage dishonesty while working.

    With this background, followers must always learn to be a good team players understanding their leader's priorities. In case of conflicting interests, followers have to be assertive with out getting the ire of their leader and they also must know the behavior of leaders in different situations as the leader is responsible ultimately to deliver results through the efforts of his/her team. Enough is written based on research how a leader should be effective. However, the important factor of leadership is to create trust in the followers and the leader has to employ all his/her people management skills and demonstrate commitment to meet the tasks.
    • Hemanshu Joshi
    • Senior Business Analyst, Global Information technology
    I would like to follow a leader who I can respect because of his/her qualities, who will bring out the best out of me, help me learn new skills and grow, bank on his/her advice and get assurance that I will be treated impartially. I should be able to talk freely with my leader and at the same time have respect for him/her.

    In turn my leader should get my support towards our common objectives. My leader should be able to bank on me and give me responsibilities.

    A leader should be able to trust his followers and it is up to followers to cultivate that mutual trust.

    Followership is not taught in business schools because followership is not a skill but a reaction. When we see a leadership conducive to our needs we automatically start following it. It depends upon the skills of a mentee to earn the trust of a mentor.

    However, managing boss is not same as managing your leader. You can manipulate your boss and ensure you get what you want from him/her.

    But, in followership you trust the wisdom of your leader to give you what he wants not what you want.
    • Narasimhan Gopalan
    • VP, i-flex solutions / Oracle Subsidiary
    Both Leadership and Followership, require the basic and fundamental qualities in the individuals viz., trust, creating and working towards common vision or shared purpose, ability to communicate one's viewpoint effectively and persuade others irrespective of the other's position / titles in the organization.

    The leader / subordinate relationship, in my view, is beautifully summarized in the following verse for it to be most effective and to result in a win-win relationship:
    "Don't lead me; I will not follow you;
    Don't follow me, I will not Lead you;
    Walk beside me, Be my Friend."

    When the Leader as well as Follower use this as the guiding principle to create and sustain a healthy relationship, and work towards the common interests and larger purpose without selfishness, we will be able to create leaders without positions and titles.

    Of the Kellerman's five types, typically the 'Engaged' would fall into this category, whille the 'activists' and 'diehards' require huge amount of communication and trust building exercises to convert them to the 'engaged' category and also it is possible that some may not be converted at all despite best efforts. Those are the ones that could pose challenge to a good leader as the leader need to assess the impact of such people on the rest of the group and take tough calls and weed them out if the effect is not desirable towards the common goals. The 'isolates' and the 'detached' could be won over with relatively less efforts.

    Also, it is interesting to observe in the corporate world, the behavioural expectations set by the boss to his followers are completely at a variance of the boss' behaviour with his boss and peers. For example, boss expects his directs to engage in collctive problem solving and dispute resolution through consensus, share the resources through mutual help, etc. while he/she does not exhibit such behaviour or exhibits exactly opposite behaviour. This is a case of selfishness and hypocrisy and hence it is important for the organizations to assess not only the results achieved by teams per se but also look at how they are achieved at somebody else's cost! Here, the tools like 360 degree feedback could come in handy.
    • Ulysses U. Pardey, MBA
    • Managing Director, Am-Tech, S.A., Panama, Rep. of Panama
    Are Followers About to Get Their Due?

    A workable broad definition of followership for the purpose of my comment could be that followership is the clearly stated fine-tuning guidance-and-support of employees by the company in order to get somewhere the way the company does it, including explicit room for bottom-up expected contribution to favor people-and-profit growth.

    To follow-and-lead, or lead-and-follow, are essential elements of the core businesses of becoming a successful employee (as broadly defined as possible) and a profitable company.
    Indeed, follow-and-help your boss, lead-and-help your subordinates / teams, complement each other in the workplace since we all have to follow and some of us get to lead.

    Turn "to follow" into a "to-go-for", and turn "followers" into "go-getters" as the open expected-right-thing to do.
    This could help trigger a rather proactive attitude toward followership in the workplace.

    I believe that followership is not an individual "thing"; it is also a management and company "thing" to be performed in a proper and purposeful way.

    Therefore, the above could be some of the reasons why followership should be taught in business schools. This teaching could substantially improve business education as it can help prospective employees understand and accept that fitting in the culture of the company is, in real-life business situations, a key success factor for career advancement or professional success and to make a difference.

    And on the other hand, followership could be a bonding Management-solution tool the company could use in a variety of ways to pull employees in and better them within its culture in a clear-cut manner which in turn, because of employees' contributions, could be a means to improve its culture to make it more competitive.

    Followership then could be an appropriate foundation for the launch and enhancement of a meaningful apprenticeship spirit among employees of the company (linked somehow to thinking-in-the-workplace) to support other matters which favor people-and-profit growth.

    Teaching, learning, properly exercising and endorsing followership in real-life business settings could contribute substantially to ease the matching of employee-boss-company expectations in order to create lots of additional win-win situations.
    • Shyamal Ray
    • Engineer, Larsen &Toubro ECC
    Living in a multi-ethinic and multi-cultured country like India, I feel that followers with the advancement of timespan of their followership to a leader evoke his learnability and start stealing the shine and charisma steadily and stealthily. From Indian mythology and current polito-business scene i find a lot of testimonies to my conviction.
    • CJ Cullinane
    Followership and Leadership are just different rungs on the same ladder. I believe to be a great leader you first have to be at some time in your career a great follower. Participative followers become leaders at some point and activist become lawyers.

    The traits that make a person a great leader are also the traits that make a great follower. How high on the ladder a participative follower gets does not deter from the fact that these very valuable people are in reality a 'leader' to some part of the group.

    Schools, at all levels of education, should stress and teach group dynamics, or how to be good followers and good leaders. The fact that all leaders have 'bosses', be they customers, stockholders, or voters, and have to be followers as well as leaders points to the need for education in this area at all levels.

    We all cannot be 'great leaders' of businesses, nations, and organizations, but we can be great leaders of our teams, families, departments, and work stations. The old qoute "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!" seems to make a lot of sense.

    Charlie Cullinane
    • Jeremy Vogan
    • Plant Manager, Turnbull Enterprises, Inc.
    Mr. Cullinane's point is well made about our educational system creating a false dichotomy between leadership and followership. I have often heard that taught, and in my intensely competitive generation of executives that viewpoint is common. But oftentimes the only real difference between a great leader and a great follower in the business world is the opportunities they have had to better themselves and the direction that their hearts take them in the pursuit of excellence, and this truth can be validated by observing the personality traits that are characteristic of both: vision, dedication, wisdom, having a sense of self-esteem and thus a sense of the esteem that is due to others, balancing between real contentment and a passion for progress - in a word, success. If business schools began engendering the achievement of true personal success as the proper goal to which young businessmen and businesswomen (such as myself) ought to aspire, instead of elevating the attainment of the chief executive's office to be the final judgment of one's career, they might find that this measure of success is not only more appropriate for most people across the board but is also one that lends itself very well to a "coaching" mentality and will grow people well by helping them identify their true calling.

    I am reminded of Paul Schofield's classic role as Sir Thomas More in the 1966 Man for All Seasons, when More counsels the young (and completely amoral) man Richard Rich not to go into politics, but rather to be a teacher. When Richard protests, complaining of the vocation's relative anonymity and asking who would ever know it if he were successful, More responds, "You, your pupils, your friends, God; not a bad public that." This is the same candid rhetoric our B-schools need to adopt as they prepare the current generation of leaders and followers.

    I say this as a young manager and MBA student myself, who has much to learn about the humility of true success in leadership, and I confess that the chief executive's office is one of my fondest ambitions; but I know well that it was my commitment and drive as a follower that not only lent credence to my abilities as a future leader as they became evident, but also prepared me psychologically for the job. And I know that along with the rest of my generation, I need to hear that it is that same commitment and drive evidenced in the ongoing cultivation of my skills as a follower which will best complement my growth as a leader. The bowls may be different, but the ingredients are the same.

    • Phil Clark
    • Clark & Associates
    The age old "chicken or egg" question. Leadership and followership dynamics are really one and the same. Those who lead in one instance may follow in another. The real dynamics center around trust, caring, and choice. How those traits are employed creates the isolates, bystanders, participants, activists, and diehards. Every person makes a choice of whether to lead, follow, or not to commit. Their choice often puts them in a catagory based on a particular perspective. Who decides who is who often is the bigger issue.
    • Gerald Nanninga
    • VP, Retail Ventures, Inc.
    Good leaders need to surround themselves with diverse perspectives and points of view. To paraphrase Colin Powell, if you just surround yourself with people who think like you, all you have created is redundancy. Therefore, the goal is to get people to want to follow you, even if they often disagree with you.

    This tends to require developing mutual respect (having the right character) and creating an envirionment where diversity is valued (having the right actions).

    Most people want to work in an enviroment where they feel they are valued and are making a difference. Provide that, and you'll get your diverse set of followers.
    • Mike Moreau
    • Doctoral Student, George Washington University
    Why do we always place leadership and followership into positional categories? Shouldn't we be foucusing on the art? It is easy to address the role of the supervisor as a mentor for his/her subordinates. There should always be an ongoing development of a successor. But it is my thinking that we should be applying these thoughts to teamwork and alignment as it applies to peers in an organization i.e. Department Heads aligning their resources to accomplish an orgainzational goal. Only one can be the leader, or in the context of a self-managed team, the role of the leader can change according to the phase of the project and who has the subject matter expertise to lead the part of the effort.

    In either of these scenerios, the other leaders must subordinate their efforts to provide the necessary support. Though communication tends to go up and down the organizational hierarchy, most processes operate horizontally across departments and between departments. Chester Barnard (1939) in his seminal work, "The Functions of the Executive", talks about cooperation of individuals and coordination of efforts directed toward a common purpose. I believe this area has not been given as much consideration and is ripe for further research.
    • Anonymous
    Leadership and followership aren't mutually exclusive traits. An individual's ability to lead and to follow strengthens their ability to function in the inverse role.

    This dynamic trait is characterized by the military adage "the best generals are the best soldiers"; or the concept that your best leaders are also the best followers.

    The challenge for individuals is to develop the aptitude that allows them to seamlessly interchange between multiple roles. The challenge for organizations is to define and execute a selection criterion that can identify candidates that effectively "wear both uniforms".
    • Eric Johnson Wildbear
    • Principal, AlderSpruce Sustainability Consulting Group
    Followership has been framed as typology by Zaleznik, Kelley, Kellerman, Chaleff and others to illuminate the engagement of the employee from different psychological and sociological perspectives. The explication of Followership serves two audiences; the managers who want to learn how to manage their followers more effectively, and the followers who want to learn how to do their jobs more effectively. Each also wants to know how to effectively manage their relationship with the other. Followership is the attempt to define healthy patterns of thinking and behaving for the majority of employees who are not in designated leadership positions, how to work with followers and the best ways to adjust their thinking and behavior if they are not healthy.

    At least one leadership text, "The 360 Degree Leader" by John Maxwell, highlights the fact that leadership thinking and behavior is for every employee, not just managers. Both followers and managers have the responsibility of fulfilling their roles, and leadership is the extra energy and attention that it takes to make their roles and the organization great. Leadership needs to be ubiquitous, not dependent on the job description of an employee. Followership ends up being the same as leadership, only from a different perspective in the organization, which leads employees to exhibit similar leadership behaviors in different realms of decision making. For example, an employee primarily doing data entry has little direct influence on decisions made using the data, but is readily responsible for maintaining the culture in the healthiest and most effective way possible. Learning as much as possible about the organization they are embedded in, understanding the big picture, maintaining a good attitude, having a good work ethic, etc. are all leadership traits for every follower. And although managers can be directly responsible for monitoring the culture and employee behavior in the work environment, so is every follower. Healthy groups and healthy organizations encourage this type of monitoring of the organization from all levels.

    Technology and the trend toward flatter organizations allow more communication from followers to be received by management. The interpersonal and psychological development of managers has also improved in the past two decades, allowing managers to listen to their followers more effectively. Organization Development, Industrial Psychology and the realm of Training and Development have opened the interior environment of people and culture in organizations to increased levels of scrutiny, and acceptance. Even the military has recognized the value of honoring the personal interiority of individuals, while maintaining a strong hierarchical structure.
    • Kim Allen
    • Consultant, TFI Environment
    I find it interesting that most job descriptions imply that "diehard" or "activist" employees would serve the organization best. Typical desirable traits include "passionate, dynamic, energetic, devoted." Where are the calls for job applicants who are "calm, clear-minded, interested, flexible, and even-keel"? I find these sorts of folks to be far more valuable in creating productive, positive work environments. Are we seeking the wrong candidates to create viable groups of followers?
    • Linda Joy Ortiz
    • MLOS/Grad Student, Self-Employed
    Individuals choose to follow just as others choose to lead because along with the benefits of leadership comes the added stress and responsibility of the position.

    If followers become interested in taking any type of manageing courses they will be entering the slippery slope of academia, and therefore may be in danger of losing their membership in the follower's club.

    All leaders were once followers, and at certain points in our lives we may just feel the impulse to step-up or down for that matter depending on life circumstances.

    I do not think individuals would benefit from classes on follower-ship as I beleive following is basically an instinct, and has more to do with individual character, culture, moral, and ethical traits and beliefs.

    Since Organizational Leadership is both an Art and a Science it seems that people rise up to leadership positions when they realize that they can make a difference.

    As a leader it is important to listen to the concerns of your employees, and remember what it was like when you were in their position. Business is always more productive when the employees are happy, and feel that both the work they do, and their personal input to the organization is appreciated by their direct leadership.
    • Alessandra Malanga
    • homemaker/Filmmaker
    It is somehow surprising that only through an extended research it was possible to understand that leaders are judged by their followers. This has always been so, since the beginning of time. Sometimes the followers reactions might be more overt other times less. Probably taking for granted a quiet acquiescence of some followers as a sign of approval is just not understanding that many people are afraid to voice their opinions or are so hypocritical that they will criticize the boss only with whom they trust. My advice is to not and categorize human interactions too much. There is always something, what the ancient latins referred to as "quid", that little something that is out of our reach or too impalpable to categorize. Focus instead all of your energies in fostering education in the work place ,which derives from the latin "eu ducere"or bringing out the good in a person.

    How do you bring out the best, or educate an individual? By creating an atmosphere of trust in the workplace, which is based on example and upon honest communication. Maybe it is time to enforce a bit of directness in people, which is not so bad if it serves the purpose to create a broader and more honest dialogue among people. This might be a big cultural change , in a culture where people are more reserved and less direct than for instance in most European cultures, but a company is waisting its money, its resources and its time if it fosters an atmosphere of hypocrisy instead of engagement, even if it is expressed in a way of strong opposing opinion. Remember also that where there is conflict there is also growth, and this is vital to any organization. Therefore companies should be very careful choosing their leaders, preferring individual very prepared for the role and knowledgeable, but also humble enough , and with good self esteem, and caring enough to say" I do not know", "I value and need your help".
    • Michael M. Norman, ED.D.
    • Learning Designer,
    Corporate America eats its children every day. We want people to be ambitious, driven, take no prisoner type leaders, yet, who are they leading? Kim Allen's observations revisits academia's and corporate mindsets greatest dilemma: What do we want people to do at work besides trying to go up the ladder? The up or out mentality drives thousands of great workers away from jobs they actually like. But the workplace has become toxic with "it is all about me and damn the lowlifers who can't or will not compete. Let them eat French fries if they can't buy steak!" Does this generally acceptable leadership development practice create the best leaders or the kind of leaders money can buy? We must remember that many great leaders cannot be bought, because they represent a significant threat to the status quo who fear real leaders. For which era of management is this discussion truly relevant? What do we really want management candidates and students to ponder over their careers? Hopefully an honest take on reality and not the other stuff fed to them by recruiters.

    There is only one primary chief in a tribe, there is only one king in a kingdom, but we seem to think that all the princes or princesses are going to become the head person of the corporation. There is no king if he does not have a kingdom to follow him. The same is true of corporations. We seem to stress finding and creating the best leaders possible, but have clearly and repeatedly aborted efforts to create great followers; i.e. the people who actually do the work and get little to no recognition nor rewards for their efforts. Have we created a class of corporate kings and queens who act like aristocrats, who think just shy of nothing of the minions below them? I do wish this were a joking matter but it isn't. The Enrons of the world say something is lurking in our business communities and it is dangerously destructive. Look at the pay differentials between corporate leaders and the plights of those who are simply earning a monthy stipend for their hours of labor. A job loss for a millionaire is quite different from a person who struggles real life financial issues everyday.

    To paraphrase an Army officer (Col. Yingling: a corporate leader can suffer far less from destroying a company, than a supervisor who questions a decision. That is my impression of the whole and perennial corporate leader--follower debate. What do followers tell other potential followers about their prospects of reaching the moon?
    • Rusty Ricketson, Ph.D.
    • Associate Professor of Leadership, Luther Rice University
    I believe if we engage in a little self-assessment we will come to the conclusion that all of us are followers of either a person or an ideal. The CEO and mailroom worker are similar in that each follows his or her dreams, ideals, and ambitions. For followers to "get their due", those who are following their ideals and are responsible for others (i.e. leaders) need to recognize and respect the ideals of fellow followers who may be in subordinate positions within the organizational dyad. Following is not a reactionary position to leaders. Following is a conscious choice to trust, engage, and produce results... or not. As the literature slowly recognizes the value of followers as more than mere "worker bees" to fulfill the dreams of the leaders, we may see an increase in follower-leader respect, integrity, and productivity. However, I am skeptical as to a leader's willingness to embrace a more follower-centric organizational culture.
    • Consultant
    Today's leaders are not able to function as 'Effective - leaders', since most them are lacking in their 'Convincing
    Capacity 'with their followers.
    The leaders of the past are self made leaders started
    their leadership from the last rung of the leadership-ladder.

    Every rung of the ladder has been cleared the for the
    follower to step on in the past.
    Today's information explosion has a dramatic influence
    on the followers to have an analysis on the ideas and planning of the leaders . This situation clearly demands a super convincing capacity from the leaders.
    The good example is the present Nuclear deal of India
    with USA.

    In the Nuke deal issue, I could see that three types of leaders, The confident leaders who failed to convince
    the supporters, The confused leaders who need power
    but lack in decision making and, the leaders who fall in
    'they also ran category'.
    All the above three types of leaders have no true followers since they are perplexed by the confusing rather than convincing leaders.

    I invite the author's comment on the 'chauvinist type'
    of followers.
    • Shaiful
    Good follower brings out good leader, bad follower brings out bad leader. Just as simple as that.

    However, bad or good are subjective discussion and subject to public perception. Followers of Hitler are considered bad to those who consider Hitler bad.
    • Waju T Ogunleye
    • CEO, Nth Sense LTd
    In a recent article to a publication, i wrote about VULNERABILITY IN LEADERSHIP (The more we rise, the more we become blind to factors and we rely upon honest, sincere and loyal people to stay abreast and productive -I guess this is what we call "followership". These roles are supposed to be indispensable and require competence and intelligence.)

    I do not agree with the adage that says "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!" In saying that, we both condone and create room for Nazi-like leadership and followership. Besides, most people in the quest to follow only do so because of immediate rewards that are less emotionally or even, spiritually fulfilling.

    It's clear from the foregoing that this is more about positional leadership and less of personal leadership. By personal leadership, i mean the principle of self-accountability and responsibility at play in people who do not need to be cajoled or threatened to do their j.o.b. Researchers say that less of working populations possess this quality.
    Unfortunately, problems occur when the managers hire the wrong hands in terms of commitment. Personally, i advocate never to hire followers in the sense of the word; who cannot speak their minds and who follow even at the expense of their personal values (family et al).

    I advocate the Principle of Ownership in hiring staff; only hiring people who display a clear understanding and enthusiasm for the vision of the company regardless of technical expertise. the result has and will always be the release of pure personal potential as against the drudgery that pervades an atmosphere of buy-ins.
    • Firozali A Mulla, MBA PhD
    • Lecturer, Waterloo Commercial College Ltd, Tanzania, East Africa
    Are Followers About to Get Their Due?

    I thank you for talking on both the employees and the employers. There has been always a misconception of the leader as the whip- holders and the ones at the receiving end. The employees use stick and carrot techniques and the employees look like mules.

    I think it is sad that to date we have many books that talk of culture, race, HRM, CRM and relationship and blending of both. Name a book that tells me that the employees work like employers or the other way.

    Always the employers pay. Employees receive the pay and follow the rules or the laws the corporations.
    What exactly do the employees need? Just the pay?

    I was watching the building of the Pyramid for the Pharaohs in Egypt. The men slogged and died, the wives helped feed them and that was the teamwork but one sided. The employees. Then it was a monarchy.

    Since then we have had, as you state, many books by very good publishers and authors like Peter Drucker, many who were among war strategists. We had the era of many who copied and carried on the same work in different flavours.

    The last sentence of mine ends in, "No, the employees will be employees and the boss will hold the same posts in many years unless it is a family company."

    Thank you.
    • Sameer Kamat
    With due respect, are we over-simplifying the issue here by categorizing followers into 5 rigid silos? Kellerman's descriptions for each type appear perfectly logical, but I'd feel these are transient states that followers pass through in their careers. And there could be several factors that define which of these states the follower will adopt at any point in time.

    For one, the situation and the context that employees find themselves in could be an influencing factor. When faced with an issue that the employee truly believes in, an isolated follower could turn into an activist, all charged up and ready to support the cause. And this may change the minute it ceases to be of relevance i.e. the issue gets resolved or dies its natural death.

    Another reason could be that the follower does not believe in the leader's vision. Who knows, under a different leader, the level of involvement for the same employee may change dramatically.

    In democracies, there is a sense of responsibility in choosing a national leader and every citizen (irrespective of whether there is political detachment or attachment) at least has a right to cast a vote. In contrast, within corporate environment, employees usually have no say whatsoever in deciding who their leader should be. The leader is always thrust down upon them by the powers that be. Considering that they had no role to play in their leader's appointment, what makes them connect with the new boss at the top and share his/her vision?

    Rather than dismissing the first two groups, which probably form a considerable majority in any organization, wouldn't it be worth the effort to try and get them involved with the right triggers and the right incentives?
    • Anand
    • Director, Philips Consumer Lifestyle
    The nature of followership is mainly decided by the type of / nature of leadership - in an organizational context. In any type of followership (engaged, activist or diehard) the significance of followership towards the leadership is determined by the constructive candor the follower displays, the conviction and fighting spirit on the issues of priority (for the organization) and most important of all, the positive attitude that is radiated through the constructive feedback on the style, merits of issues and congruence of priorities.

    These aspects are displayed in differing intensity in different cultures but there common attributes that will define a strong team (or organization).
    • Bruce R. Duncil
    Leaders can only be defined by and through their following. Consciously or subconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, leaders establish the requirements for and constituency of their followers. Good leaders ensure they have the right following. Followers do best to choose their leader wisely. These are good reasons the emphasis has been and must continue to be on leadership. Kellerman's noting a possible shift in power and influence from leaders to followers similarly suggests that the proper question is now rather "are leaders about to get their due?"
    • Sherpa
    A successful enterprise will have competent leaders at every level of the organization. The successful leader will develop teams and empower team members through education, effective communications and daily motivation. Each leader must have the confidence in each team member to raise them to a level of "co-captain" of a given team. If the player does produce to the betterment of the team, they are traded. Perhaps the outcome of the 2006 Ryder Cup would have been different had they assigned 12 co-captains to the American team.
    • Shoma Mukherji
    • Doctoral Student, Management Development Institute, India
    I agree with Kellerman's view about the engaged follower being the most effective. Culture has a major influence on the nature of followership. Intelligent followers who are able to positively impact the leader's perspective truly contribute towards society's progress.
    • Narendar Singh
    • Professor, Vidya Business School
    Followership has alwys been given the due. Historically the followers were paid or compensated as they basically provided physical power. What has actually shifted is the ability to scan and determine what is required. Knowledge is the key and NO leader has every bit of information and hence need of followers. The choice would be critical and based on selection he would be able to influence the events. Advice so provided by the follower would leverage him with the leader.
    • Prasad
    • Business Analyst, TCS
    In my opinion there is not much of a difference between leader and follower. A leader has certain qualities that match the frequency of the follower. The follower does not blindly believe what leader says or does. Each one has their own opinions and when these are collective, leaders and followers are born. A leader might be somebody who has better knowledge on things that followers believe and follower try to learn from them by being associated with them.
    • Dora Bonnet
    • HR: Human Development, Jorge Tadeo Lozano University
    A good follower is one who can lead his own life, with generosity and respect. If you know what, how and why you do things it is easy to accept or move along with others. I like the idea of followers and leaders 'walking together'. You never know when you have to exchange roles.
    • Mohammad Razipour
    • Business Development Manager, Kayson
    I am not comfortable with the notion of "followership" in business. In today's business world if the human resources of an organization are divided in two sectors of "leader" and "followers", that organization is destined for decadence."Followership" may seem more appropriate in the case of religious sects and ethnic groups, or in politics and military, where the "followers" are expected to "follow" the leader blindly.

    In business, where we are talking about "co-creation", and "integration", "participation", and "collective wisdom", we should not draw a sharp line between the human resources of enterprises and divide them into the mentioned distinctive categories.

    In an ideal situation every employee must feel that he, or she is a leader in his/her small territory; and true leadership is to bring on board all colleagues and sail together toward the target which is achieved through that charismatic quality of the leaders by aligning all forces in one direction, much like the way a piece of neutral iron is magnetized, and thereby acquires huge forces of attraction, when forces of all of its atoms are redirected in one direction. Leaders should learn how to make permanent magnets out of their neutral human resources. In such a situation everyone will feel as a leader and as a follower at the same time. Only under such circumstances will individuals feel they are a part of the organization and the organization is a part of them; and only under such conditions will innovation and creativity flourish and evolve which is the key to survival.
    • Harsha
    Definitely, Leaders and Followers are two different groups of entities.

    Leaders exhibit leadership values and attains original ideas and implementation Standards. Their goals and objectives are clear and defined. They derive Solutions and positive results are drawn in steps pertaining to the circumstances. Proper path towards attaining constructive mechanism / roadmap is well-understood by the leaders.

    Followers, on the other hand, basically 'study' about the actions and decision-making criteria committed by Leaders and tend to create a line of action items to be achieved. Though knowledge-driven approach, Followers maintain similar line of roadmap to reach the desired goals. Clearly, there is a limited sense of indeginous thinking and views here.

    Of late, there have been certain misinterpretations between them. Leaders or Mentors have to make sure about the long-standing relationship with a person as a Follower. They have to identify and regulate concrete decisions taken by Followers, to ensure keen understanding of the overall problem. In all aspects of Management ethics and processes, Leaders have to assist and nurture 'trusted' Followers to take on effective future responsibilities.
    • Abhijit Basu
    • Management Trainee, Genpact India
    It all drills down to the fundamental objectives of an organization. Mass direction must be given to people in order to acheive common goals. A leader just facilitates this mass direction and in the course of directing plays the various roles of a leader. Followers must be in consensus with their leaders to ensure collaborative efforts are made towards reaching the common objectives. Leaders specialize in leadership and must use their skills to ensure efforts are combined and not made in silos.
    • Lawrence
    • Pre-sales, Accel frontline Ltd
    You can be a good leader,but without followers where is leadership? Too many leaders (Middle Management) but no leadership seems to be the sorry state of many "passive aggressive organizations" today. Many supposedly good leaders fail to create a shared vision and this makes thier leadership seem dissonant if not repulsive. Managing upwards is a skill and an art few people seem to have.
    As far as followers getting thier due is concerned it all boils to the leader and their leadership style. When followers get thier due the leader shines even more. But many leaders with their myopic vision fail to comprehend this.
    • Anonymous
    Is it just a question of empowerment? i have just seen a message by mr davenport on his blog where he was sort of against IBM new theory that social networking has moved companies from control driven towards employee driven. I see it as a big movement, but already in the 80s they discovered that followers work sometimes below their true potential - when control is treated like a priority instead of supporting some goal orientation. and i think that IBM has sort of proved this with their new policies.

    Still somebody must give people there some direction and control their performance and create a great team.
    • Muhammad Shoaib Zafar
    • Section Officer, Ministry of Commerce, Pakistan
    A good leader in my view would be, who knows how to produce good followers. This is important in many ways. First, a leader alone cannot achieve the targets/goals set by the organisation. For that he/ she will need a team of good competent followers who are "enagaged" with the leadership. Second, the more important task in my view is to produce future leaders and this cannot be achieved unless he/ she produces good followers. Today's follower is tomorrow's leader.

    Besides Enagaged Followers, i would, therefore add another category of "Engaged Leaders". This combination will give a company long term success instead of short term glory.
    • Ian Plowman PhD
    • Director, Ian Plowman Pty Ltd
    It is axiomatic that a leader is someone who has followers. It cannot be otherwise. So it might be argued that the concept of 'leader' exists in the minds of the followers. Further, there is a useful typology, the source of which I do not know. Followers psychologically, and unknowingly, create the concept of leader to fulfill three unconscious psychological needs: (i) for legitimate leadership - often held by a titular head, someone who represents the group to itself or outsiders; (ii) for effective leadership - here the role is context specific, temporary and skills based - who has the knowledge or wisdom the group needs at a particular moment in time; and (iii) effective leadership - compassion or nurture we seek from another when we are hurting. Important in this trilogy is the realisation that rarely, if ever, are these three sets of leadership attributes found in the one individual. Hence followers are often disappointe
    d in their 'leader'.
    • Linda Joy Ortiz
    • Self-Employed, MLOS/APU-Grad Student
    One of the questions that was asked is "Why isn't follower-ship addressed by business school curricula along with Leadership?"

    I can tell you that it is covered in the first course of the B.S. program in Organizational Leadership, and the M.A. program of Leadership and Organizational Studies at the University That I am currently attending.

    The course's were both about group / team dynamics. The idea is that one must first understand what it takes to be a strong group / team member (Follower) before they can possibly understand what it takes to be in a leadership position.

    The follower's were never left out of the equation. We were put into mock situations that helped us to gain an understanding of how it feels to be not only the leader, but also the follower.

    We learned that it is important to value everyone, and accept their input as the team members that are going to work with us to fufill our organizational goals.
    • Dr. Hemjith Balakrishnan
    In his seminal work on "Leadership", James McGregor Burns states that "leadership is the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth". Can leaders have an identity different from their followers when it comes to the achievement of a common goal? As the famous quote elucidates "leaders don't force people to follow--they invite them on a journey".

    As we are aware, leadership is far more a reciprocal process of problem-solving and innovation within a group or organization. Therefore for "effective leadership" as well as "productive followership" what requires is, constructive and critical thinking and sharing of meaning through effective communication. As Peter Drucker stated that: "Management has no power - Management has only responsibility". As leaders, they have responsibility that often supersedes their power. If we look more at the accountability and responsibility of a leader we see that the leader tends to identify strongly with their group in that the success of the group equals personal success. Leaders put organizational goals ahead of personal ambitions and put the welfare of the total organization ahead of all other things. As Benjamin Disraeli declared "I must follow the people.- am I not their leader?

    Therefore the essence of true leadership in context of effective followership has to be more participative than directive and more enabling than performing. Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by collective results not collective attributes. As the famous saying goes a good leader inspires others with confidence in him; a great leader inspires them with confidence in themselves.
    • Wendell T. Law
    • Director, Technical Operations, Avionics Specialist Inc.
    Leaders need to understand that followers can be very territorial about their job or position within the company. The followers seem to work better when they understand how they fit in the big picture and that their job is as important to the success of the company as anyone elses.
    • Anonymous
    I find it interesting that there are no comments on another option available to the work force....the employee aka leader/follower who gains the skills to take off on his or her own, and become an entreprenuer.

    This is to me, a bit of a sad thing. Has American entrepreneurism decreased?
    • Daniel P Michel, Ph.D.
    • Consultant, Center for Leadership Excellence
    I have two thoughts in answer to your two questions. These come from my perspective as an adjunct professor of leadership in an MBA program and as a professional business coach to Presidents and CEOs of family owned businesses.

    Question 1: As a follower, what advice would you give to other followers wishing to have an impact on their jobs and organizations? I think it is important to view one's job as a privilege and as a responsibility. We were created to enjoy the work of our hands (and minds). For those who live and work in the USA we, for the most part, have a great privilege to use our hands and minds in productive labor. With that privilege comes a responsibility to be a good steward of that job. As a follower we should take the job seriously and realize that if I shirk my responsibility to do a "good job" (interesting English phrase) there are other people out there who can take it.

    Question 2: As a leader, what do you do to foster good followership? In both my consulting practice to Presidents and CEOs I find that we, as business leaders, often need to have the best interests of the organization in mind in their strategy and execution. We also need to place a high value on the people who make up organization.
    • Anonymous
    I have found that honesty is not always the best policy. I used to believe that you owe your superiors your best thinking, even if it is ultimately contrary to their own. Superiors have a right to reject your best thinking. And you have an obligation to execute (devotedly) on your boss's thinking, notwithstanding that it is not in agreement with yours.

    The problem in all of this is when your thinking is better than your boss's. That you were honest about it. Sometimes a follower is a better thinker than a leader. That's where your honesty can lead to your boss's insecurity.

    Over the years, some of my best thinking has been allowed to go by the wayside, to the chagrin of some of my bosses. The opportunity cost was heavy. And credit wasn't given to me for that thinking. It was resented.

    Being right is not always best. One can become a parriah.
    • Khadija Khan
    • Quality Management Specialist, UN-IAEA
    Historically speaking, there have been great followerships in the religious, politcial, social and economic movements in the world. Some survived till todate and might continue. These were not only of the leadership personna, but of ideas and notions as well. Whereas leadership generates followership, it happens the other way round, too, particularly in political scenarios.

    Among the five types of followerships described by Kellerrman, the second type of detached are the one that could bring in balance to the leadership with their neutrality and non dogmatic approach of followership. I would not write them off in the beginning without defining their role in the long term. On the other hand the type five i.e. diehards could damage the leadership and tarnish the image of followership. That we have seen in religious movements. Perhaps, we should study leadership beyong corporate sector.
    • Anonymous
    As often I find in my new role as a civilian manager and leader (7 years ago I retired as an Army colonel), a business person misunderstands the nature and realities of military leadership (please see response #31, stating, "...Followership may seem more appropriate in the case of religious sects...or in military...where the 'followers' are expected to 'follow' the leader blindly." This is unfortunate. Not only does such comment perpetuate the idea among many of our educated business professionals that military leadership is a simple matter, but also that those who we led in military endeavors were unthinking, uncritical, and just plain not real smart folks.

    I got to tell you that very few soldiers, whether they are new privates or seasoned colonels, follow you because your merely tell them something and expect automatic compliance. They follow you because of many reasons, but mostly because of the trust and confidence you and they have in each other's talents and abilities, your character, and based upon a relationship, that is usually understood as one of genuine mutual caring, that you and they built over a period of time together.

    This relationship could not exist unless they have had real and honest input to discussions, decisions, courses of action, or plans that as the leader, you were responsible for developing, implementing, and achieving results as a team. Perhaps this is something lacking in many civilian organizations, i.e., this genuine caring for the "followers." I'm currently building a team of civilian business professionals, who must change quickly or cease to exist as a business entity, and this is the hardest lesson for some to grasp.
    • Anonymous
    This is an insightful article with the exception of one problematic. That is, according to Prof. James Heskett's brief review, Kellerman has classified in her text, "Followership", the followers of the Nazi leadership in Germany in the 1930s and 40s as "isolates (completely detached)"and mere "bystanders (observers only)". This classification, in my view and many would agree, should be regarded as an understatement, given the testimony of history. On this note, cosnidering how zealous those men and women were in executing their orders and crimes, I believe Nazi followers should be precisely placed in the "participants (engaged)" and "diehards (deeply devoted)" categories. Nevertheless, Barbara Kellerman's contribution is timely, because it has added more ingredients to the leadership literature. So, yes, with the calibre of the human resource of companies one of the key determinants of their competitive advantage, the efforts of followers, as enablers, are now appreciated.
    • HC Garner
    • Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies, US Army Command and General Staff School
    Are Followers About to Get Their Due? Comments

    My advice for leaders is...leading is about relationships so develop empathy. Empathy is a critical interpersonal skill and the foundation upon which relationships are built. When understood, developed, and practiced, it greatly enhances a leader's ability to conduct critical leadership functions. Whether it is Soldiers venting after a difficult patrol or associates concerned over working hours, humans want to be heard and understood. Humans desire relationships and empathy is the foundation of all relationships.

    The leader who harnesses the power of real empathy will foster trust, better communications, tighter cohesion, better discipline, and greater morale throughout the organization. If the leader attempts to empathize with the "isolates" and "bystanders", perhaps a deeper understanding of their views and opinions will follow.

    My advice for followers... Before you agree to employment in an organization, know the organizational culture. Are you a good fit? Do you share the same values, principles, and ethics as your organization? Know what is expected and try to get a feeling of the immediate leader climate. Don't rush into the employment process.

    Addressed in business school?

    In my view, everyone in an organization is simultaneously a leader and a follower no matter what his or her role or position. Everyone has a boss, even the President. Since leadership ultimately involves the art of influencing others, does followership imply learning how to be influenced? Dr. Kellerman and Dr. Heskett need to provide more clarity to this proposed field of "followership." Terms such as dignity, respect, trust, timeliness, duty, loyalty, competence, fairness, and empathy are applicable to leadership and followership.

    If you can't be led, you certainly can't effectively lead. Since most leaders gain their experience from being followers, why don't we just focus the limited time and resources on the leadership aspect?
    • Fahmi Abdein
    • President, Empower for Organizational and Human Development
    1. Simply put: Have vision + make me believe = will follow.

    2. In order to foster good followership leaders must actively listen to their followers, understand them, know them, their strenghths and weaknesses, and then "individualize" their leadership accordingly.
    • L. J. Leysen
    • Business Student
    Good point Anonymous #46, "The efforts of followers, as enablers, are now appreciated". The case studies of "Enron" and "WorldCom" show that these horrible financial, and organizational crimes could not have taken place without continual help of the willing subordinates in their accounting departments. Followers may be finally "getting their due" by being held responsible for the unethical personal and financial decisions they make that enable unethical leaders to continue to take advantage of the general public.
    • Jay Somasundaram
    • Systems Analyst
    If we define leadership as the ability to affect events rather than simply hierarchical position, then it helps clarify the picture. Leadership is then Influence (of which many books have been written) of which positional power is only one factor.

    Kellerman's last three types then become tactics in leadership without exercising positional power - and positional power isn't all that powerful anymore.
    • Anonymous
    People that follow Leaders/Managers, particularly Supervisors, hold the power to make or break your organizational strategy - the buck stops with them. If there is no respect, trust and inspiration for the Leader/Manager, you're doomed - no matter how technically gifted the person is - it won't work in the long run and strategies will crumble.
    • Vasudev Das
    • ISKCON of New Jersey/IFAST
    The foremost quality expected of a bona fide follower/employee is that he/she must be fully cognizant of the objective criterion of human life and his/her pristine identity as these would help in furthering the course of the organization's mission.

    A good follower should have mastery over his/her sensory modalities to excel in executing/implementing organizational/institutional policies without fear or favor. One's good intentions crowned with success will know no bounds if the sensory modalities including the mind are monitored and are under check and balance. More than few employees/leaders have been victims of the unruly and impetuous sensory modalities that have resulted in job loss, judicial action, embarrassment or a combination.

    An effective follower/employee must strive to understand "why and how" the boss does what he does and should be as good as the boss, that being the standard, if the boss sets good example. He must have to access to the boss' comfort zone. He/she must radiate caring thinking for the boss. He/she should not only be committed to the boss' instruction(s) but should also anticipate what the boss would expect of him/her and have it done. "It's not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted." - Mary O'Connor: Romance author. If you see a problem, fix it. Don't worry about who would have gotten the blame or who now gets the praise. It is far better doing much and showing the results to your boss/head than talking much and doing less/nothing. An effective follower should be innovative and inclined to crisis resolution or problem solving oriented.

    Keep in that one's aptitude is not the sole determining factor of his/her altitude in life but his/her positive/numinous attitude would go a long way to foster his/her fortitude. Genuine humility should the watchword of a follower who is aspiring to harmonize relations in the organization. The need to communicate emphatically is a sine qua non for enthusing colleagues and clients for the organization's viable future. The need to be psychologically adjusted (not maladjusted) to suit time, environment and circumstance in dealing with emergencies without having to boil over cannot be underestimated.

    A good follower must have internalized connectedness with colleagues, seeing the colleagues as agents of his boss. He/she should honor the colleagues the way he/she treats the boss. He/she must be forgiving. An effective follower must constantly empower himself/herself to be able to create waves in his endeavors to produce the desirable change in the organizational setting. He/she should avoid destructive criticism and/or faultfinding bearing in mind whatever energies we put out would come back to us. He/she should rather be a deconstructive, constructive and an appreciative thinker.

    An introspective good follower must keep in mind that his/her cumulative thought pattern has created his/her present work life and should serve in the best of his/her ability and should maximize the utility of every opportunity for upward mobility. "Your life right now is a reflection of your past thoughts. That includes all the great things, and all the things you consider not so great. Since you attract to you what you think about most, it is easy to see what your dominant thoughts have been on every subject of your life, because that is what you have experienced." - Rhonda Byrne: Australian writer and producer, known for The Secret.

    Americans are hard working and successful people but don't be a workaholic; take time off your job and go to the country to live closer to nature to embark on deep supramundane reflection. This would reinvigorate you and increase your productivity. Have time with your family and focus on the ultimate goal of your life.

    A bona fide follower must see one's self as a servant, as evidentially everyone is serving. Srila Prabhupada, founder of world-wide ISKCON asseverates that the pristine constitutional position of all living entities is service. We are either serving the bahiranga-sakti, "external energy" or we are serving the antaranga-sakti, "internal energy." The modern day corporate greed and the concept of everyone for him/her self may be a limiting factor in experiencing a harmonious worker-employer relationship in a capitalist economy. A follower's modus operandi spiced-up with contentment, purity, earnest endeavor, noble thoughts, responsibility, compassion, and eschewing of greed and envy is conducive for great leadership aspiration and development. No employee ever becomes an authentic leader without following the standards of great leaders.
    • Col. Surendra S. Arya (Retd.)
    • Chief Mentor, Perspectives Unlimited
    Great, I find this discussiion very interesting, encouraging and meaningful. Over the years, while in military and later for a decade in IT industry, I have maintained that the concepts "Leadership" and "Followership"are complementary and necessarily co-existent.

    However, while good leadership has been talked, researched, adequately recognized and rewarded, good followership (Like bowlers in the game of Cricket) has been taken for granted.

    The following needs attention:

    Defining followership and establishing a symbiotic relationship with leadership for good of organization, society and the world at large.
    Good leaders have to essentially good followers like the virtues of good listening as against oratory.

    Evolving success criteria and good metrics for good followership (a Balanced Scorecard Approach will help).

    Evolving recognition and rewarding mechanism for good followership (Some concepts from effective teams may be useful).

    Like Integrative Leadership, a process must capture Integrative Followership, making it "Integrative Leadership- Followership."

    Risk Analysis for neglecting followership in organizations and society.
    • Mike Allison
    • Corporate Training Manager, ClarkMorgan Corporate Training
    I find the concept of followership most interesting as I am presently writing a book with the title "Everyone a Leader." I feel that every individual should be taught to lead within the scope of their role and responsibilities. While it is true that there will always be isolates and bystanders, I do not particularly want those types of individuals on my team. I look for individuals who are willing to learn to and take on the responsibility to lead. Those who are unwilling to do so are not suited for the team I work with. Even a receptionist should be given leadership training and encouraged to take on the role of a leader. Just imagine what corporations could accomplish if everyone were taught to lead within the scope of their responsibility.
    • Sarshar Ahmed
    • Logistics Manager, Alcatel Lucent Pakistan
    In office environment the subordinate are always watchful. They keep observing eyes of boss and try to comply. The behavior of the boss or the bosses altogether forms the culture of an enterprise. There are subordinates who act like "back seat drivers", and whenever they see danger coming closer they try to steer / break while sitting at rear seat, and then they realize that they are commuter. However the decision of Boss prevails and that decides the ultimate fate of any entrepreneur. The behavior of subordinates should commensurate with the behavior of boss.

    There are leaders / bosses who achieve the status not on competency but through inheritance or relations e.g. the son of the owner or niece of director. In such cases there is almost always a struggle between the subordinates to control the mind of boss. Few subordinates enjoy seeing their decisions taking shape through their bosses. They gain confidence on successful decision making (through their bosses) moreover they also learn from the failures of wrong decisions taken on their advice for which their bosses are accountable.
    • John Kirwan
    • Partner, Strategic Planning Solutions - UK
    Leadership creates Followership as an act of Wizardry.

    Let me explain.

    The best analyses of Leadership and Followership see them as more than a mere value-neutral position in a hierarchy, a badge of status (which, deliberately, is a word resembling 'static').

    Rather, they see Leadership and Followership as round-of-applause words, describing processes, activities.

    In this latter light, we can see that we are all Leaders and also Followers. I Lead my team and I Follow my CEO. I Lead and I Follow my family. I/We/He/She/They/You Lead self, and Follow ideals.

    It depends on the perspective of what Arthur Koestler called the 'holon'. This captures the idea that any unit or system, such as an animal or a family, for example, comprises sub-units or systems (such as, respectively, organs which comprise cells which comprise nuclei etc; or parents and children). At the same time, any unit or system is part of a larger unit or system (such as a herd, or community).

    Of course, this is not a linear progression like some Russian doll; rather it is a web of inter-connected holons. A family, for instance, could be part of a coach party, and part of a village, and part of a school sports day, and part of a quiz-show on television, and part of a hospital waiting room, and so on. These can be contemporaneous and long-lasting, or serial and brief. Also, as one's perspective moves about, so does what one regards as a whole and what as a part.

    Hence, from the perspective of the different holons each of us is a member of, we are both Leader and Follower.

    But what is the process or activity where Leadership and Followership share a nodal point?

    This brings us back to Wizardry.

    I always ask the executives I coach, the workshop participants I facilitate, the audiences I address, to think of a leader they have found especially inspiring. A leader who stands out in their memory as an enduring inspiration. I then ask them to specify the behavioural traits such a leader had that make them, in their view, so special.

    Sure, some refer to his/her skills at strategic thinking or to his/her high energy levels, but the one thing they all concur with at the heart of it all is the effect that leader had on them.

    It comes out in expressions like: "he/she believed in me"; "he/she had faith in me"; and "he/she made me believe in myself".

    And this is the act of Wizardry, the magic. It is not an external wave of the wand as with Harry Potter. No, rather it is like what we see in the 'Wizard of Oz'.

    Yes, there is an outside force, but (as in the Pygmalion story) it is the outside force of Expectation that awakens the strength that is already within.

    In the Wizard of Oz story, the Lion found courage not by an injection of a fluid called "courage", nor by some application of external magic that put courage in his heart.

    Instead, the Lion was told that anyone with courage should have a medal - all the Lion was missing was a medal. So he was given a medal and the courage within the Lion was awakened by the expectation that was embodied and confirmed by the medal.

    As leader, you see the person in your mind and see the potential in them. You become a sculptor of the reality of that individual if you see greatness in them.

    It is the same with your families. The way you unconsciously treat the child causes them to grow into your expectation. If you find fault, see a blemish, then as a strong parent, more than likely you will create it.

    The principle is that people will live up to or down to what you expect. A Great Leader always sees more in you than you do in yourself. And it is this positive-Pygmalion effect, this act of Wizardry which is being reported by the respondents to my question: "he/she made me believe in myself".

    And so we have it: Leadership and Followership share a nodal point in the process of awakening triggered by expectation.

    They expect their people (bosses, subordinates, colleagues, loved ones, themselves...) to do better.

    And they see enormous potential, not only in those whom they lead, but also in the people that their followers are going to touch in turn.

    It takes people with high ideals and high aspirations, to see greatness in your business, to see greatness in the people around you, and then working and coaxing and designing and sculpting in order to bring it about.

    What happens if you or your people drop the ball? As good leader - a positive Wizard - you have to take the risk, and if you are not willing to take those risks you cannot be a great sculptor.

    Great Leadership/Followership is never, ever risk-free.

    So, essentially, my observations of the most effective leaders I have encountered show me that leaders do not so much create followers......but more leaders.

    Yes, research shows that engaged employees are important. But the real enduring competitive advantage is to be had in creating confident employees. Not employees confident in the executives, but employees who are confident in themselves: Leaders/Followers, that is, positive Wizards.

    As Goethe has it:

    "If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse. However, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that".
    • Marianne Doczi
    • Principal Advisor, Department of Labour, New Zealand

    I wonder what average age those of us participating in this discussion are. I'm 52 and I'm very conscious that younger people have a different construct around leadership and followership. They want to self-actualise in a way that's beyond being a leader/ follower, as do increasingly baby boomers who are in a position to choose how they spend their income generating time and energy.

    My experience also is that increasingly it's 'peer2peer' relationships that have the most influence. So the binary construct of Leader/ Follower doesn't necessarily reveal the primary relationship of influence: it ignores the way people in groups or teams look to people other than the titled 'leader' for signals about how to behave.

    In other words, people don't just follow leaders, they follow each other. And with increasing social media technologies the 'voice' of other individuals, and our own, is more powerfully heard and therefore able to affect and influence others.

    The concentration on a vertical 'Leader/Follower' dynamic also ignores the increasing amount of collaboration that goes on between people in organisations and customers or value-chain contributor, particularly in regard to innovation. So rather than the construct of 'who to follow' perhaps a more pertinent question is 'who to collaborate with'.

    Regardless, a key issue is the nature/quality of the relationships between people, and the awareness we have about our own values, motivation and behaviour.

    The comment from '47' about empathy is really well made. Without the ability and willingness to understand the perspectives of others we're not well placed to engage, influence or act effectively, which we have to do irrespective of whether our formal role is one of leader or follower.

    Perhaps Followership isn't addressed in business school studies because it is a trojan horse which would cause serious challenges to the notion that competition and hierarchy are paramount rather than; understanding how to cooperate and collaborate; acknowledging the importance of organisational culture; being self-reflective; sharing knowledge across disciplines. In short, acknowledging that the models of organisational behaviour and work practices need redesigning.

    If organisations want their employees to be more actively engaged then they need to understand how to harness their ability and willingness to share ideas and knowledge. And deal with the reality of how humans actually interact with each other, and manage themselves.
    • Yagnesh Shah
    • Senior Technology Engineer, H. W. Wilson
    In my perception no one should be a follower. You have to arm yourself with whatever skill you possesses. You should keep your eyes open and perform due diligence checklist. Same thing applies to the leaders. As a leader, you should take all actions after performing due diligence checklist. Reward those who understand and work toward the "greater good" of the organization, keep personal and professional feelings separates. In short everyone should observe, judge and take appropriate action.

    To all followers, I like to share this famous case of Betty Vision, a senior manager in WorldCom Inc.'s corporate accounting division, is profiled in a cautionary tale for good corporate soldiers who find themselves ordered to do something wrong. Vinson, who is awaiting sentencing on conspiracy and securities fraud charges, balked when she was first asked by her bosses to make false accounting entries; then she caved in to their orders. As her experience shows, although it's hard to tell right from wrong in the heat of a workplace battle, "just following orders" is not an excuse for breaking the law.
    • Catatonia Unlimited
    • Ceo, Dark Management
    Fellowship is as much influenced by Leadership as the Sun influences night. I dare say that bad leadership creates bad followers; however, good leadership does not necessarily create good followers.

    The psychology of behaviours that we deem as unproductive and bad is essentially individualistic and selfish. When one is faced with such barrages, self preservation kicks in and he notion of fellowship tends to be moot.

    Do you be a good soldier and martyr yourself while claiming collateral damage, or do you stand your ground? Check out my blog, how'd you behave if you're face with such Dark Management practices?
    • Sujeet Prabhu
    • Technologist, Larsen & Toubro
    I feel Leadership and Followership are two sides of the same coin. In todays world with increasingly flat organisations, it is very difficult to differentiate between the two roles. In fact, it is quite possible that the Boss is not necessarily the Leader in an organisation.

    The five types of followers described by Barbara Kellerman seem to be mirror images of leadership styles. It is also quite possible for a single person to follow different styles of followership, which in turn may be determined by the leadership they may be dealing with.

    I feel the importance and role of followership is implied in any leadership training. As Aristotle said, "He who cannot be a good follower, cannot be a good leader."
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC (India) Private Limited
    In my view, each one of us is a leader in his personal and/or professional life. It is necessary, however, to feel and be confident that way. It is to be understood that in effect I am a leader of my own self and the actions that emanate therefrom. The essence is to feel the responsibility and not shirk away from the accountability for one's actions. One must perform to his best capability and let the outcomes follow. The problem with a follower is that he does not view his actions objectively and always tries to justify when called upon to explain by the boss. One must have the courage to admit one's behaviour if it is i not in keeping with what the organisation and in turn the boss expects. There is no need to show off knowledge/action superiority to the boss as it smacks of arrogance and egoism. Remember that the boss is also a follower and he has his perceptions guided by his boss's demands....this is a chain and one who behaves as an obstruction is bound to fall aside and get isolated.

    Common sense, no doubt 'not so common' is to be applied without of course compromising on the basics;nevertheless, dissent,wherever it arises, needs to be expressed tactfully without hurting the emotions of the boss.

    Once the follower feels the pulse intelligently he is bound to tread on the expected path and earn appreciations. In exceptional cases, he has no alternative but to quit the role and seek alternatives.
    • Buckley Brinkman
    • Change Catalyst
    An important component to question is the changing context surrounding the Leader-Follower relationship. These relationships used to play out against a traditional paradigm which was relatively static or slow-to-change throughout entire careers.

    Somewhere along the way the paradigm changed. The velocity of that change has redefined loyalty and the rules of the relationship. The new loyalty calls us (Followers and Leaders) to be dedicated to a relationship as long as it works for both people. Employees will move on. Companies will continue to grow and contract. The individual relationships will change as particular situations demand adjustment.

    Traditionalists bemoan this change as a lack of employee loyalty and the fickleness of followers. I instead believe these changes free the Leader and Follower to create a more balanced, authentic relationship. Talented, creative, confident people thrive under this new, albeit shorter, contract. Followers have more freedom to take their talents where they are appreciated. Effective Leaders attract strong teams of the most talented people by creating environments where they thrive.

    The entire system is much more transparent. It creates a more authentic environment where constraints of all kinds - physical, policy, and paradigm - are eliminated and true talent comes to the fore. Waste is eliminated and genuine results rewarded.

    Followers (and Leaders) finally get their due.
    • Henry Maigurira
    • Secretary, Pachi Development Foundation
    I work for a company that provides leadership development courses.

    The fundamental value of our training courses is the idea that people develop through interaction and open communication channels with diverse people of cultures.

    Human Resources development is the fundamental of efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace.

    What we do is who we are, a willing employee is a leader in his/her career development beacause of accetable attitudes, beliefs and values to develop with recognised norms and objectives. The follower is the leader of the next generation, the leader is the hero of the legend, the legend is what history will live to tell. People must always install confidence in the potential that is spotted and keen for lucrative entreprenuership steps.
    • Anonymous
    There seems to be a lot of shame about being a good follower, especially in the cultural context of the US.

    Taking a course in followership may be viewed as taking a course in submission, which is incompatible with notions of individuality and individual achievement.

    Yet in this competitive world not everyone can be a leader and not everyone is made to be a leader.

    I would like to see a book on or a course in: "How to be a good follower while retaining your individual dignity".

    There is nothing to be ashamed of being a follower. As one reader pointed out, all of us are followers at least some time and all leaders have bosses as well.
    • Anonymous
    As one who created and taught a semester course in "Followership" at the undergraduate level in the Department of Business (1980's), and who has personally worked now for 50 years across many functions in both High Technology and Education, I am a committed believer in the need for emphasis on Followership. The Western World is far too focused on Leadership, ignoring for the most part the paradox that, without Followers, there are no Leaders. And every Leader has been, and still is, a Follower. I do believe that the essence of followership comes from within the individual, and a good follower is one who understands the organization, the need to work within a context of Accountability-Responsibility-Authority, but who does not submit to the point of losing a sense of Self-value, competence and commitment; i.e., if working "for" someone who does not understand and practice the best in Leadership, find a way out and move on. Power, badly used, is nothing to put up with, and in my long experience, many individuals who have cast themselves in the unchanging role and status as a follower, do themselves harm. Followership is a critical subject, and should be properly studied and taught, both to Followers and to Leaders.
    • James Egbe
    • CEO, JP Consulting
    This is a very interesting topic and I think it deserves the attention it is receiving. Basically, most leaders were once followers but their perception is majorly influenced by the corporate goal and personal vision of how to meet stakeholders expectation. Often times leaders give out those approach to achieving results they never liked as followers because the motivating factor is different.
    Followers are also key stakeholders but need to meet the expectations of the leader to really be relevant. As a professional, I actually recommend best practice as the way out even though it may not be pleasant at all times to the leader. What options do the followers really have? Play the office politics in line with the desires of the leader or just remain aloof and be irrelevant. A win-win situation will be achieved by ensuring the desires of the leaders are not outside the regulation and coporate governance expectations. These are real challenges, because you may put your job on the line to achieve corporate governance if you do not implement the leaders instruction at all times as a follower. Little choice indeed for the follower. Best practice at all times and keeping to the rules and regulations of the industry may be the only way out for a discerning follower. Leaders want to achieve results at all cost at times, so followers should exercise caution in following the desires of the leader.
    • Greg Bownik
    • Teaching Partner, Bethel University
    I recently taught a course on followership and strongly believe that it helped students develop as both leaders and effective followers. Students analyzed their own followership styles and learned about other follower types (as described by Robert Kelley in The Power of Followership) such as the alienated, exemplary, pragmatist, passive, and conformist follower. At the beginning of class most students believed that followership was nothing more than a supreme act of obedience. At their final presentations, most demonstrated that it was much more dynamic and fulfilling to understand and practice the art of followership. So there was significant growth and a change of attitude toward the subject. I think that a course in followership should be adopted as part of every management or leadership degree program. Studying followership allowed each student to analyze and reflect not only on their followership style, but also on the leadership style of their manager. They learned that being an effective follower has not always been appreciated and sometimes can be seen as an act of rebellion by an insecure boss. Consequently, being an effective follower can be just as demanding and sometimes require more leadership skill than that of senior managers who are all too often pressured to go along with the status quo and reject creative thinking brought forth by their followers.
    • Damian J. Manassa
    • Head of Executive Coaching, Slade Group People Solutions
    I agree with Jim Heskett in that, it is critical to escalate the attention paid to followership.

    The pervasive economic themes of the globalised world are demanding more of 'performance relationships'; and in essence all of our human relationships are defined by performance expectations; none more so than the organisationally defined leader-follower relationship.

    Followership is the primary activity of all human beings, defined by a need to belong; whereas leadership is a secondary negotiated activity, defined by a desire to differentiate.

    The tensions inherent in a performance relationship defined by the need 'to belong' and the desire 'to differentiate', have been primarily negotiated by the person engaging in a leadership state of 'being' (as indicated in the depth and breadth of leadership literature/research).

    Followership as a state, has been more associated to one of 'doing' and as such identified by the role 'to serve'. The advent of the 'servant leader' described by Robert Greenleaf, turned this notion on its head; as it illustrated that the privilege of traditional leadership, imposed limits on the performance of others, and that for leaders-followers to evolve, followers as such needed to be consciously acknowledged by leaders and elevated to a role of co-constructors of success; a short term solution.

    It is the longer term solution/responsibility of followers to acknowledge, elevate and promote followership as being a crucial relationship state that enables the co-construction of sustainable success.

    I believe this responsibility, when fully embraced by the followers who lead themselves, will see followership attain its due.

    Note: I use the term 'state' versus 'role', to illustrate that both leadership and followership are evolving fluid concepts, identified within performance relationships; not inert rigid constructs.
    • Theresa Rich
    • Doctoral candidate, Capella University
    In my doctoral research, I am looking to understand the nature and extent of any relationship between supervisor satisfaction with employee performance and the courageous follower behaviors described by Ira Chaleff (2003). Chaleff posits that courageous followers show the behaviors of assuming responsibility, serving, challenging, participating in transformation (organizational and personal), and taking moral action.

    Understand the dynamics within the employee and supervisor dyad benefits employees, supervisors, and their organizations. Employees will be able to better understand how to take personal responsibility and control for the relationship. Supervisors will be able to understand how to best coach their employees for optimum performance (as well as take personal responsibility and control of their own relationship with their supervisors). Organizations will be able to develop effective training and development initiatives to enhance organizational performance.
    • Gene Dixon
    • Director, ECU Engineering Ink, ECU
    As a follower, what advice would you give to other followers wishing to have an impact on their jobs and organizations?

    Be passionate about what you are doing. If you are not passionate, find something else to do.
    As a leader, what do you do to foster good followership?
    Empower followers. Unleash their passion for their work and get out of their way. Provide the resources required for passion to satisfy the customer.
    Why isn't followership addressed by business school curricula along with leadership?

    There is no glory (in the ordinary) for followers. There is no research funding to speak of for understanding followers (masses) as contributors to organizational efficacy.

    Does it belong in a course of study?
    Great books exist on followership. Why not great courses of study? We too often turn them into leadership texts.
    Or does this just run the risk of deteriorating into a discussion of how to manipulate your boss?
    This will always be a risk. Just like the study of leadership too often digresses into manipulating employees. As Stephen Covey says, it began with, "How to win friends and influence people."

    We spend far too much time dissecting leaders (and followers?) and not in understading the leadership process as a system. The engineer would call this dissection, sub-opitmization. To me, the leadership process as a system is based on appeal and desire. The leader desires to get something done and seeks out followers who appeal to her/him as support for achieving vision, mission and principles. Similarly, the follower looks for a leader who appeals to her/him in the ability to deliver a vision. If the follower connects this with their desire to be passionately part of the scenario, they will deliver.
    I suggest that appeal is comprised of: personal ethos, logos and pathos with additional aspects of skill and talent, potential for meaningful action and chrisma (leader and follower).

    Desire is comprised of some wisha/wanta, drive or motive, unmet potential and dissatisfaction with the status quo.
    • Edward Hare
    • Retired Director, Planning, Fortune 300 Manufacturer
    Whether leader or follower, I think it's important to remember that humans, like other animals, are driven by feelings.... that are then reflected in behaviors. Fear, insecurity, greed, joy, the desire for achievement or recognition....that's what's at the bottom of what we all do. It's fabulously complex since our feelings are situational, rooted in experience, and influence whether we decide to follow an idea, or another person. Or, to lead in an arena we feel unusually passionate about.

    In my mind it's essential to first understand one's self.....your own attitudes, values on different subjects, and as much as possible, to consider the feelings that are driving those around us. What gets in the way is that very few of us are suitably in-touch with ourselves and/or willing to recognize and admit our feelings.
    Business schools don't "teach" such things. And, in the case of followership, there probably isn't much of a market for improving it. Leadership has so-o-o much more cache and everyone thinks they understand the importance of leaders to any endeavor. Followers don't carry the same weight. Sad, since they're most often the ones who get things done.
    As I've aged I long ago decided to only surround myself only with "authentic" people. Those I understand, who are predictable, and who don't play games. I simply don't have the time, energy or interest in trying to figure out where others are coming from or what their motives are.

    Professor Heskett used the word "manipulate" in his questions. That's a powerful word that just might hint at something that's amiss in today's business world to a degree that's become troubling. We've become conditioned to believe that manipulation is part of the game, and it's ok for leaders to practice it in the name of getting something done perhaps. Personally.....I don't like to "feel" that I'm being manipulated and I doubt few people do. Leader or follower......the best relationships are founded on straightforward honesty, respect, and sharing of purpose. Now.....where do we learn that? And how many employees default to the unsatisfying exchange of their time for money? If that's all there is then neither "leadership" nor "followership" flourishes.
    • Gokulakrishnan
    • Sr. Project Manager, Sutherland Global Services
    Personally, I don't think we need a course of study to enhance a good "followership" culture. Very few percentage of the whole population is falling into the "leadership" category, while the rest are comfortable being a "follower" for their lifetime.

    Since there is a growing demand for grooming leaders, it's essential to focus efforts in this area. In any case, "followers" will get aligned when performance is a criterion and as leaders one would know how to foster the culture of "good followership".

    My point is also substantiated by most of the survey or research which point out, that generally people don't leave the organization; they leave because of their leader(s).
    • Anonymous
    Followers won't get their due because we live in a "blame the victim" world now. The truth of the matter is globalization and bad leadership is responsible for many of the quandaries the US and the world is in economically now. Followers will continue to suffer at the hands of bad leadership.
    • Douglas Elliott
    • CEO, TEQ Development LLC
    Are Followers About to Get Their Due?

    Wise leaders have always appreciated the value of followership, including those times when followers are either expendable or inimical to a leader's self interest. In historical terms, followers can be likened to that great mass of ice below the waterline that float the icebergs of civilizations. In time the iceberg breaks up, melts, evaporates and is reconstituted as new ice in some next epoch. What followership wants, more often than not, is a form of social contract in which leaders assure followers that, in exchange for wise counsel and useful work, followers are rewarded with the comforts of extended job security and the means to maintain harmonious, if not prosperous family and kinship relations. Unfortunately for followers, the theory of modern global capitalism rewards monied interests, and sharing the wealth with followers is a less efficient short term reward for owners of money.

    I sometimes think we are reliving a history that if it were a movie would be called "Age of Rome vs. Age of Enlightenment". Rome was both a republic and an empire. In the republic, the separate social classes had leaders committed to the sovereign rights of that class. The respective masses followed their class leadership under a rude form of democracy. The Roman republic had its successes and failures, but eventually collapsed when the success of Roman expansion exceeded the recipocity of class rights, not to mention petty corruption, to govern its possessions. The Roman Empire was born out of that inefficiency and corruption. It accepted as principle that for a singular enterprise to succeed, it needs leadership that is singular, effective and absolute. Unfortunately, it also made succession of leadership more matter of personal extermination than succession planning.

    The Roman empire did have its share of enlightened leadership (Marcus Aurelius comes to mind) which understood the long term benefit of shared wealth with the followship classes. But these were personal choices, not cultural or institutional in nature. Eventually the governance of the empire in service to the emperor became too great a burden on the state of the empire and Rome melted away into history.

    The monarchal theory of Roman rule survived a great deal longer than Rome itself. It survived into the 18th century when three of Europe's most absolute monarchs-Frederick, Catherine and Maria-Theresa- chose to make the Enlightment theory of social contract and class reciprocity a matter of enterprise policy. Enlightened despotism, is an oxymoron, particularly for despots and since that time republicanism has prevailed as a least despicable form of goverance. Money, however, has never lost its own sense of nobility so the accumulation of money and monied interests has bred a certain faith in an aristocracy of capitalism for which plutocracy is a laudable objective. In the democracy of business enterprises money votes cumulatively and not surprisingly, looks selfishly to enhance its own position first rather than to be enlightened towards the followership of its workforce.

    Kellerman's subdivisions of followership is a completely reasonable method for dealing with the cultural anthropology of labor in the pursuit of work. As I understand her thesis, followers choose who or what to follow and this availability of choice is a means to shape effective leadership. One consequence is that followers may seek out and hopefully obtain the employ of enlightened despots in the aristocracy of capitalism. That such opportunities exist are, as in the age of monarchs, matters of personal choice, not institutional principle. One can only wonder whether the hazards of rational personal belief can supply enough leaders for followers to satisfy their group interests. Absent an adequate supply of enlightened leadership I personally wonder whether a new kind of social contract may be in the offing.
    • John Baikie
    • Managing Director, MPowering Pty Ltd
    In my opinion "followership" is a powerful concept with an unfortunate name. Leadership is "sexy", but the word "followership" is not. Most people would like to be regarded as a good leader, however being called a good follower carries some negative connotations that fail to excite. We need a better name for it. Most people spend their lives being followers - even very high ranking politicians, religious leaders and business executives are also followers - for most people followership is more important than leadership.
    • Sunil Varughese
    • Director, Brand Indigo FZ LLC
    If an individual joins an organisation whose mission is in alignment with his own mission statement and values, then working as a leader or follower is incidental. Everyone in the organisation is working towards fulfiling the mission at hand and the leader is merely the first among the equals.Today, even CEOs if they have an open mind can learn new things from a beginner.Barrack Obama,the presumptive Democratic nominee, while thanking his team after getting ahead of Mrs.Clinton, noted that a majority of his team members were not even of drinking age--yet the ad-hoc team as a whole helped Obama to forge ahead and take the next step to achieve the greater mission. If the leader views his job as a stewardship and carefully selects team members who have a passion for the mission then distracting activities like "managing your boss" etc. becomes redundant and work becomes the main priority of everybody in the organisation.
    • Ganesh Ram
    • GM - Career Planning and Development, i-flex solutions
    Interesting to see that only one or two of the 75 comments so far, like no. 50 (Jay), focused on defining leadership as influence. In today's knowledge-driven world, anyone with the relevant expertise in a situation often becomes the leader. As pointed out by many, we all need to have attributes of good leadership and good followership.

    Good followership means yielding to the best approach forward regardless of who articulated it and doing the best one can to achieve the goal. In many cases, the positional leader could have come up with the idea but s/he then needs to get the buy-in from the team to ensure commitment to the successful execution. A good leader would take on this responsibility even if the idea was suggested by a rookie.

    As mentioned in comment no. 14 (Kim) and no. 46 (Anon) the so-called "diehards" could sometimes cause harm by being blind to the weaknesses of the leader or of the plan. They could knowingly or unknowingly manipulate leaders into taking decisions that are not fair to all stakeholders.

    I do not believe it is useful to think of a followership curriculum. Followership is better defined and understood as "not the leader" in a situation. Everyone in an organization needs to adhere to norms (legal, ethical, professional, organizational) and seek to build influence. Thus every follower is a potential leader and could benefit from training. We should continue our attempts at leadership development :-)