following the leader

I am a confessed leadership junkie. No matter where I go, I observe leadership in action. Working in retail, I witnessed many styles (some admittedly better than others).

hanging with followers
hanging with followers

What makes a good leader? In a never-ending quest for truth and knowledge (yeah I know it sounds ridiculous, but true) I investigated attributes of effective leaders.

Leadership is great men and women with certain preferred traits influencing followers to do what the leaders wish in order to achieve group/organizational goals that reflect excellence defined as some kind of higher level effectiveness. – Joseph Rost

Leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations–the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations–of both leaders and followers.
James MacGregor Burns

leadership in a vacuum

Both quotes mention followers. Hmm… Does this mean the quality of followers is important? Without supporters, who would we lead?

In a perfect world, we would choose a dream team. The reality is we often inherit followers. Is the inherited team willing to follow your lead? A friend introduced me to the followership theory:

The willingness to cooperate in working towards the accomplishment of the group mission, to demonstrate a high degree of teamwork and to build cohesion among the group.

The concept of followership is valid but is it realistic? Do the followers in the above mentioned definition comply for the greater good? Perhaps their compliance is purely out of hopes for self-promotion. Does it really matter if they are getting the job done?

ingredients of a good follower

Just like a great commander, good followers/sidekicks/acolytes/stooges possess certain qualities. According to every article I glanced at regarding the subject, a vital ingredient is self-motivation.

An inspired individual aims to succeed and willingly takes on responsibility to ensure a positive outcome. I feel this concept mostly takes the leader out of the equation. In essence, the pressure is taken off the effectiveness of the leader and placed in the hands of her staff.

Followers requiring high direction probably wouldn’t do well in a followership type setting. However, just because they need constant supervision, doesn’t mean they lack the ability to follow a leader or complete a task.

not sure I buy it

I believe the team involved is important but the bottom line is that I see followership as another reason to pass off accountability. If a leader is ineffective, so are the followers who model her behavior.

What is your opinion of followership? Do you believe it worthy of a second glance or is it a bunch of HR Kumbayah bullshit? Have you had experience with those who practice followership? Please share your thoughts and stories.

3 thoughts on “following the leader

  1. paradigms of leadership says:

    Nice blog and thank you for sharing. There is some interesting material written in the era of Collective (Distributed, Shared) Leadership that you may find useful and also Indirect Leadership. I’d be happy to share some thoughts!


    1. miriamgomberg says:

      It is always a pleasure to share good content. I would love to find out more about collective and indirect leadership as I am presently somewhat unfamiliar with it. Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. M


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