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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.

Changing Perspective

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

Kelley’s Model

In order to define the distinct types of followership Robert Kelley uses two behavioral parameters that are relevant to the behaviour and personality traits of followers: the one measures the degree of independent and critical thinking and the other assesses the level of engagement, in other words whether they are passive or active in the organization. The five styles of followers that result from this distinction show variability in the extent of independent thinking as well as organizational engagement, while their motivation does not originate from the same sources. The following is a basic assessment of each follower type according to Kelley:

  • The sheep, whose thinking and engagement is passive and their motivation derivers from their leader rather than themselves.
  • The yes-people, who in most cases allow their leader to think and act for them, but are generally positive and always on the leader's side.
  • The alienated, who have more independent thinking, but are predominantly negative. Although they think for themselves, their contributions are not towards the positive direction of the organization.
  • The pragmatic, who show a minimal level of both 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 demonstrate poor critical thinking and are motivated by maintaining the status quo.
  • Last, the star followers, who think for themselves, have positive energy and are actively engaged. They agree with and challenge their leaders.

Ira Chaleff’s Model

Barbara Kellerman Model

Influence of followership on management

Managing through followership


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