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In common usage, the word followership generally refers to:

  • a position of submission to a leader
  • a position under tutelage or guidance
  • an individual who acquiesces power for the good of the group, team, or community


Followership and leadershipEdit

(Much of the following view of followership expresses profound dedication to the preservation of status quo social hierarchies, extreme reverence for an aristocratic concept of leadership, and prescriptive repudiation of principles of democratic equality, much of it expressed in a tone deficient in neutrality.)

The role of a followerEdit

Followership at first glance seems the antithesis of leadership. The words "subjection", "meekness", and "subtlety" may come to mind when conceptualizing followership. (Compare the important connotations which have attached to the Arabic words islam (in the sense of "submission") and muslim (in the sense of "follower".)) The role of a follower, however, in many ways resembles that of a leader. Willingness to tell the truth forms a key ingredient of a "good" follower. Leaders depend on their subordinates for appropriate information. At times this information will prove unwelcome. Followers must have the confidence to speak out. They understand the necessity of the discomfort they may feel while communicating concisely with the leader, and they realise their role in helping the leader make better decisions. Having the fortitude to speak candidly with the leader also comprises a leadership trait. Followers, according to this point of view, must regard silence as unacceptable.

Becoming an "effective" follower within the leader/follower conceptual universe takes just as much work as becoming a leader. Leaders must allegedly recognize the difference between pessimists, individuals just along for the ride, individuals working just for the paycheck, and participants (followers). Such leaders must reward followership. Organizations that clearly communicate guidelines for subordinates (i.e., bureaucracies) will allegedly have more success . Effective followership expectations must be taught (by whom?).

Great followership is the foundation for great leadership just as a strong foundation can support the walls of a tall building. Based on the works of Robert Kelley (The Power of Followership) and Ira Chaleff (The Courageous Follower), the follower creates the environment by which organizations rise or fall. As scientists estimate that 90% of all matter in the universe is dark matter, so followers in an organization make up the bulk of any employee base. Leaders may direct the activity, but followers create the end results. The leader/follower relationship exists in all nations, cultures and organizations. As long as the leader nurtures and fosters cohesiveness and trust within this relationship, the follower will continue to acquiesce power for the good of the goal, organization, or even to just maintain that leader/follower relationship.

Stated principles of ideal followershipEdit

  • demonstrating respect
  • thinking win/win
  • working within the system
  • acting proactively
  • appreciating differences
  • striving toward a common goal (one shared with leaders)
  • recognizing any authority that leaders may possess
  • tailoring actions to accord with leaders' ideals
  • making decisions based on a set of values
  • enthusiastically working towards organizational goals while nevertheless remaining accountable for results
  • gaining the trust of leaders
  • fostering enough independence to allow followers to achieve goals without complete reliance on leaders
  • requiring only high-level guidance
  • demonstrating effectiveness when working in a group independently
  • recognizing the hierarchy of leadership while becoming a self-motivated mini-leader
  • proactively working to fulfil or exceed expectations

Evaluating followershipEdit

Effective followers may ask themselves leading questions like:

  • How good are your following skills?
  • Do you willingly step forward?
  • Does it really please your leaders to have you on board?
  • Are you on board?
  • Do you participate with the leader and the rest of the team in a follower frame of mind or do you spend time criticizing your leader's shortcomings?
  • Are you willing to follow, to move from where you currently stand?
  • How can you add value to your team?
  • Do you have a trusting and cohesive relationship with your manager/supervisor?

They may also have conventional answers to these questions.

Alternative views to followershipEdit

Alternative views of co-operation may de-emphasise the cult of "leadership" (and thus of "followership" as well) to bring forward ideals such as equal partnerships, elective loyalty and consensus decision-making leading to shared execution.


Followership and tutelageEdit

Effective followers know when to follow and when to step up and take charge. This also happens to be the halmark of a great leader as well. Within this section, Followership and Tutelage, effective followers know when to shift roles between being managed and managing up.

Managed tutelage: Though not an official term, this easily identifies the most commonly perceived role of followers. Followers have the same power as managers, however they choose to yield to their managers for the good of the organization. Managers are said to have more experience, authority, understanding and skill than followers. In many (but not all) cases this may be true. These followers willingly allow managers and supervisors to control their work schedules and activities as they learn to become as experienced and skilled as their managers. In time, these followers will rise to the ranks of manager and lead their own followers.

Managing up: In some instances the manager has the authority, but neither the skill nor the knowledge to effectively direct workflow. In these cases followers can still be loyal to their managers by directing work activities, making decisions and passing them by the manager for approval. In time, the manager will "learn the ropes" and eventually take the reigns from the followers as an effective leader.

See alsoEdit

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