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Leadership & Followership

Leadership Strategies
Problem of Followership
If I am not leading, is that a bad
thing? Am I an ineffective
practitioner if all I do is follow?
Should I feel guilty about this or
is it alright that I follow? Is there
a role for me to play?
“I am so excited to be a
follower. I can’t wait to learn
more about it and how it can
benefit my profession and
professional association!”
Leaders and followers take part in a common enterprise
– they are dependent on each other.
Their futures rise and fall together.
 Improving leadership improves management and raises the
probabilities of better performance.
 That boards often change leaders when enterprises are
slipping confirms the importance placed on leadership.
 The flip side of leadership is followership.
 It stands to reason that if leadership is important to
performance, followership must have something to do with it
Followership Concept
Followership is a straightforward concept.
It is the ability to take direction well, to get in line behind
a program, to be part of a team and to deliver on what
is expected of you.
It gets a bit of a bad idea! How well the followers follow
is probably just as important to enterprise success as how
well the leaders lead.
Excellent Follower
 The label “excellent follower” can be a doubtful
 It is not a reputation you necessarily want if you are seeking
higher corporate office.
 There is something of a disgrace to followership skills.
 Pity because the practical reality is one does not reach
progressively more responsible leadership positions without
demonstrating an ability to follow and function effectively in
a group.
 The fact is that in organizations everybody is both a leader
and a follower depending on the circumstances which just
adds to the impossibility of the followership humiliation.
Excellent Follower
Followership may take the backseat to leadership it
matters a lot.
Quite simply, where followership is a failure, not much
gets done and/or what does get done is not what was
supposed to get done.
Followership problems manifest themselves in a poor
work ethic, bad morale, distraction from goals,
unsatisfied customers, lost opportunities, high costs,
product quality issues and weak competitiveness.
Excellent Follower
At the extreme, weak leadership and weak followership
are two sides of the same coin and the consequence is
always the same:
Organizational Confusion & Poor Performance
Followership will always be in the shadow of leadership.
But there are no leaders without followers and on-going
success with weak followers will usually prove elusive.
The Role of Followers
The role of a follower doesn’t just mean following
directions or blindly accepting everything a leader says.
Good followership is characterized by active
participation in the pursuit of organizational goals.
In many cases, this means working independently, being
accountable for your actions, and taking ownership of
necessary tasks.
Types of Followers
Right in the middle of the scale, these people are skillful at
surviving change.
They are able to adjust and conform to the situations
around them, whether this means stepping up to take on
an important task or quietly staying in the background.
These are inactive people who do not think critically and
do not have a strong sense of responsibility.
Types of Followers
Yes People
Yes people are those who will willingly act when told what
to do but depend heavily on leaders for guidance.
They do not tend to be active.
Alienated Followers
These are independent critical thinkers who are not active
in their roles.
They can effectively carry out their roles, but there is often
an trace of dissatisfaction that prevents them from fully
agreement their work and contributing to their fullest
Types of Followers
Effective Followers
These are independent critical thinkers who follow through
Effective followers can succeed without leadership but
respond to it well, making them ideal independent
employees who also work well in teams.
Qualities of Followers
 judgement. Followers must take direction but they have a basic
responsibility to the enterprise to do so only when the direction is
ethical and proper.
 The key is having the judgement to know the difference between
a directive that your leader gives on how to proceed that you do
not agree with and a directive that is truly wrong.
 Good judgement is critical to being a good leader.
 Show enough good judgement as a follower and you usually end
up getting a shot at being the leader.
 Good judgement comes from experience; experience comes
from bad judgement.
Qualities of Followers
Work Ethic. Good followers are good workers.
They are hardworking, motivated, committed, pay
attention to detail and make the effort.
Leaders have a responsibility to create an environment
that permits these qualities but regardless, it is the
responsibility of the follower to be a good worker.
There is no such thing as a bad worker who is a good
Qualities of Followers
Competence. The follower cannot follow properly unless
competent at the task that is directed by the leader.
It is the duty of the leader to assure that followers are
Sometimes things go wrong because the follower is not
capable at the task at hand.
When this happens, leaders should blame themselves,
not the follower.
A sign of poor leadership is blaming followers for not
having skills they do not have.
Qualities of Followers
 Honesty. The follower owes the leader an honest and forthright
assessment of what the leader is trying to achieve and how.
 This is especially the case when the follower feels the leader’s
agenda is seriously defective.
 Respect and politeness are important but that said, it is not
acceptable for followers to sit on their hands while an incompetent
leader drives over the cliff.
 Good leaders are grateful for constructive feedback from their
 Bad leaders do not welcome feedback and here followers have to
walk carefully.
 If the situation is serious enough, consideration should be given to
going above the leader in question for guidance.
Qualities of Followers
Courage. Followers need to be honest with those who
lead them.
They also need the courage to be honest. It takes real
bravery to challenge a leader about concerns with the
leader’s agenda or worse, the leader himself or herself.
From time to time, it takes real courage to be a good
Qualities of Followers
Followers owe their enterprises and their leaders
Talking about work matters inappropriately is at best
unhelpful and more likely harmful.
Carefulness doesn’t means keeping your mouth shut. It
should be easy but many find it next to impossible.
You cannot be a good follower and be careless.
Qualities of Followers
 Loyalty. Good followers respect their duty to be loyal to their
 Loyalty to the enterprise and its goals is particularly important when
there are problems, interpersonal or otherwise, with a particular
 Followers who are not loyal are certainly a source of difficulty.
 They create problems between team members; they compromise
the achievement of goals; they waste everybody’s time; they are a
 Loyalty is not a synonym for lapdog. Its essence is a strong allegiance
and commitment to what the organization is trying to do.
 Followers should remember that their obligation is to the enterprise,
not a given leader at a given point in time.
Qualities of Followers
 Ego Management. Good followers have their egos under
control. They are team players in the fullest sense of the
 They have good interpersonal skills.
 Success for good followers relates to performance and goal
achievement not personal recognition and self promotion.
 Sounds too good to be true and often it is.
 It is difficult but the best organizations tie advancement and
reward to performance and goal achievement as hard as
that may be to do.
Developing Effective Followers
An organization with effective followers often performs
well because employees are driven self-starters who are
motivated to support organizational goals and have the
critical thinking skills to do so.
To develop effective followers, an organization must:
 Understand Leader and Follower Roles
 Recognize that leaders need followers to carry out organizational
initiatives, and ensure that leaders understand that the role of a
follower is just as important as their own.
 These roles can be transferred through training and modeling
behavior when leaders are acting in the role of follower.
Developing Effective Followers
Teach Followership Skills
Don’t assume that people inherently know how to
effectively follow.
Teach them the necessary skills, such as responsibility, selfmanagement, and analytical thinking.
This type of training can be done through coaching,
mentoring, and experiential learning.
Developing Effective Followers
Include Followership in Performance Evaluations
Employees need feedback to improve their followership skills,
and evaluating these skills during performance reviews
highlights the importance of the role.
Most reviews focus on leadership, but if you also shine a
spotlight on followership, this will prompt employees to think
about how they can also improve as a follower.
Developing Effective Followers
Create a Structure That Supports Followership
When creating teams, think about how you can include
the concept of followership.
This might include creating small committees with no clear
leader, rotating leadership positions on a team, assigning
tasks to lower-level employees, or rewarding followers who
take on an active role in a project and are vital to its