Structure of this article
Leadership is the process by which a person exerts influence over other people and inspires, motivates, and directs their activities to help achieve group or organizational goals.
Followership is the willingness to cooperate in working toward the accomplishment of the mission, to demonstrate a high degree of teamwork and to build cohesion among the organization members.
Leader-Member relations is the extent to which followers like, trust, and are loyal to their leader; a determinant of how favorable a situation is for leading.
The accomplishment of the desired outcomes both at an organizational but also at a multi-company level has often been, at a great extent, attributed to the leadership skills of managers. Thus, since the beginnings of the 20th century a lot of studies have focused on the various leadership styles and the effect they have on the efficiency and effectiveness of different groups. The last decades, though, there is a stream of scholars who choose to shift the attention from leaders to followers and research their characteristics and contribution to the performance of the teams of which they are members. They justify this choice by highlighting that Leadership and Followership are two fundamental roles that individuals shift into and out under various conditions. It is therefore equally important for any project’s, programme’s or organization’s success to include people that have the skills and will to lead, as well as others that have the skills and will to follow. Furthermore, learning how to effectively follow can give a person valuable experience in understanding the perception of coworkers and eventually make them better leaders with high effectiveness.
Styles and Models of Followership
Robert Kelley, considering the behaviour and personality traits of followers, defines five different styles of followership. Each style is expressed taking into account two parameters: one parameter measures the degree to which followers think independently and critically and the other assesses the level of engagement, whether they are active or passive in the organization. The following is a basic assessment of each follower type according to Kelley:
- The sheep are passive in their thinking and engagement and are motivated by their leader rather than themselves.
- The yes-people also allow their leader to do most of the thinking and acting for them but are generally positive and always on the leader's side.
- The alienated, who are predominantly negative but think more independently. They think for themselves but do not contribute to the positive direction of the organization.
- The pragmatic exhibits a minimal level of independent thinking and engagement as they are more willing to exert energy and get involved when they see where the direction of the situation is headed. The pragmatics lack in demonstrating critical thinking and are motivated by maintaining the status quo.
- Finally, the star followers think for themselves, have positive energy, and are actively engaged. They agree with and challenge their leaders.
Ira Chaleff’s Model
Barbara Kellerman Model