Followership: An Important Partner of Leadership: Introduction

Followership: An Important Partner of Leadership: IntroductionIt is believed three key elements are important to leaders: charisma, personality, and competence (Bateman, 2011). For followers, however, integrity and leadership values seem more important (Bateman, 2011). Indeed, distrust and discontent may trigger a disaster if followers have negative leadership experiences (Greyvenstein & Cilliers, 2012). Thus, to some extent, followership is the mirror image of leadership.
Many scholars and practitioners of leadership support the idea of interplay between leaders and followers. Kleiner (2008) noted, “leadership and followership are two sides of the same coin, each intimately connected with the other in a dynamic manner” (p. 93). Buchanan (2007) stated, “Without great followers, leaders would become schizophrenics sitting in their offices talking to themselves” (p. 110). Attridge (1949) went further and argued that “good followership is more vital to a democracy than excessive leadership” (p. 12). Bennis (2008) had a similar thought and suggested “great followership is harder than leadership. It has more dangers and fewer rewards” (p. xxvi). Bennis (2008) also predicted that “a decade from now, the terms leader and follower will seem as dated bell bottoms and Nehru jackets” (p. xxvi). Furthermore, Cox, Plagenes, and Sylla (2010) believed that a dynamic relationship between leaders and followers reveals a possibility of interchangeable roles of leaders and followers. In other words, in some situations, “the role of follower can therefore be seen as holding within it potential for both accessing and taking on leadership functions” (Hollander, 1992, p. 71). Because of this intimate relationship between leaders and followers, Bjugstad, Thach, Thompson, and Morris (2006) proposed a bigger framework of integrating followership and leadership that is expected to maximize organizational goals and effectiveness.
The purpose of this article was to review related literature concerning followership and to draw attention to this area because it is argued that good followership serves as an important resource for organizational development. First, the definition of followership is reviewed. Next, the qualities of good followers are examined. Then a path to effective followership is suggested.