Followership: Leadership and Followers

Topic: BusinessEnergy
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Last updated: April 17, 2019

There have been many observations regarding the characteristics of a leader, but followership has received less attention. Treister and Schultz (1997) “suggests that a “follower is someone who accepts guidance and, on receiving it, takes the appropriate action. ” Treister et al (1997) also state followership is “considered a passive or submissive role of lesser importance than leadership. However, the effectiveness of leaders to a large measure depends on the qualities of their followers. Treister et al (1997) go on to say “good leadership enhances followers, just as good followership enhances leaders. ” So followers are just as important as leaders are to a leader/follower relationship.

Some have categorized followers in different typologies because not all followers are the same. These typologies are based on the follower’s behavior and engagement. Kellerman (2007) “categorizes all followers according to where they fall along a continuum that ranges from “feeling and doing absolutely nothing” to “being passionately committed and deeply involved. Kellerman (2007) “chose level of engagement because, regardless of context, it’s the follower’s degree of involvement that largely determines the nature of the superior-subordinate relationship.

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” Followers may fall into different categories depending on the situation, leader, or organization. Kellerman (2007) states that Kellerman (2007) “chose level of engagement because, regardless of context, it’s the follower’s degree of involvement that largely determines the nature of the superior-subordinate relationship. ” According to Kellerman (2007) only a few other researchers have categorized followers.Kellerman (2007) also states these researches “have all argued that leaders with even some understanding of what drives their subordinates can be a great help to themselves, their followers, and their organizations.

” Treister et al (1997) “maintains that “leadership and followership be regarded as interdependent concepts” and “distinct entities, but of equal value to the corporation or group. ” Isolates is one of Kellerman’s (2007) typologies. These followers are “completely detached” according to Kellerman ( 2007).Kellerman (2007) goes on to describe “these followers are scarcely aware of what’s going on around them. Moreover, they do not care about their leaders, know anything about them, or respond to them in any obvious way. ” Larger organizations will see more isolates because they can disappear easily.

Kellerman (2007) also goes on to say “their attitudes and behaviors attract little or no notice from those at the top levels of the organization as long as they do their jobs. ” These followers can “impede improvement and slow change” according to Kellerman (2007).The next typology is bystanders. Kellerman (2007) states these type of followers “observe but do not participate. These free riders deliberately stand aside and disengage, both from their leaders and from their groups or organizations. They may go along passively when it is in their self-interest to do so, but they are not internally motivated to engage in an active way. ” Kellerman (2007) also feels these followers are like isolates because they “can drag down the rest of the group or organization.

” These types of followers can be useful to managers if they are productive.Isolates and bystanders can be encouraged to increase their levels of engagement and ultimately their productivity when the root causes of alienation is determined and appropriate intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are offered according to Kellerman (2007). Kellerman’s (2007) next typology is “Participants are engaged in some way. Regardless of whether these followers clearly support their leaders and organizations or clearly oppose them, they care enough to invest some of what they have (time or money, for example) to try to make an impact. These followers can be very valuable if they support the leader. Kellerman (2007) goes on to say “When they disapprove of their leaders and managers, however, or when they act as independent agents, the situation gets more complicated. ” It is very important for a leader to know if these followers are “for or against them” as Kellerman (2007) states.

This does not come up as an issue for isolates and bystanders. Activists are the fourth typology of Kellerman.Kellerman ( 2007) states “activists feel strongly one way or another about their leaders and organizations, and they act accordingly. These followers are eager, energetic, and engaged. They are heavily invested in people and processes, so they work hard either on behalf of their leaders or to undermine and even unseat them. ” Activists are few in number but can have a great impact on an organization or group. The fifth and last typology is diehards.

Kellerman (2007) describes “diehards are prepared to go down for their cause – whether it’s an individual, an idea, or both.These followers may be deeply devoted to their leaders, or they may be strongly motivated to oust their leaders by any means necessary. They exhibit an all-consuming dedication to someone or something they deem worthy. ” Kellerman (2007) goes on to say “they can be either a strong asset to their leaders or managers or a dangerous liability. But they are willing, by definition, to endanger their own health and welfare in the service of their cause. ” The attitudes and opinions of isolates and bystanders are not important compared to the other typologies.Kellerman (2007) “suggests that good leaders should pay special attention to those who demonstrate their strong support or their vehement opposition.

It’s not difficult to see the signs – participants and especially activists and diehards wear their hearts on their sleeves. ” These typologies can also be grouped as good or bad followers. Kellerman (2007) points out that “followers who do something are nearly always preferred to followers who do nothing. In other words, isolates and bystanders (little or no engagement, little or no action) don’t have much to recommend them.Then again, doing something is not, in and of itself, sufficient, especially in cases of bad leadership.

” “Good followers will actively support a leader who is good (effective and ethical) and will actively oppose a leader who is bad (ineffective and unethical). Good followers invest time and energy in making informed judgments about who their leaders are and what they espouse. Then they take the appropriate action” according to Kellerman (2007). Bad followers are the opposite. They do nothing and do not support good leaders or they may support a bad leader.Treister et al (1997) states that “like leadership, the characteristics of effective or “exemplary” followers are in large part learned or learnable behaviors that must “be practiced before they are mastered. Furthermore, it is in the best interest of the leader and the organization to develop skillful followers.

Competent leaders promote and encourage self-sufficiency, critical thinking, individuality, and continued learning, all of which contribute to the formation of exemplary followers and ultimately to the success of the leader and the organization, group, or profession. In conclusion Kellerman (2007) states “that leaders who know more about what makes their followers tick put themselves, their followers, and their organizations in an advantageous position. ” According to Treister et al (1997) “followership is not a term of weakness, but the condition that permits leadership to exist and gives it strength. ” Cited Works: Kellerman, Barbara. Harvard Business Review, Dec2007, Vol. 85 Issue 12, p84-91, 8p, 2 Illustrations Treister, Neil W. ; Schultz, James H..

Physician Executive, Apr97, Vol. 23 Issue 4, p9, 5p, 3 Black and White Photographs, 1 Diagram, 2 Charts


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