Followership: An Important Partner of Leadership: Qualities of Good Followers

Frisina (2005) pointed out that in our current culture, follower has a passive and a blind connotation. However, from the perspective of effective followership, the role of followers should be viewed as positive because it reflects that followers actively engage in the work and provide critical and constructive feedback for leaders in order to make informed decisions. In fact, a number of scholars have argued that good leaders and followers share similar characteristics (Brown, 2003; Hollander, 1992; Latour & Rast, 2004). After all, this relationship is a two-way street. Latour and Rast (2004) noted that this connection in fact implies two dimensions of followership: competency and relationship. The former involves working effectively with others, embracing change, understanding what is expected, and seeing one’s self as a resource. The latter pertains to building trust, communicating courageously, identifying with the leader, and adopting the leader’s vision.
From the perspective of individuals’ role orientations, Howell and Mendez (2008) proposed that there are three active roles of followership: interactive, independent, and shifting. They believed these three roles contribute to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the leader-follower relationship. The key idea is that followers are expected to enact various types of jobs and might substitute or neutralize leadership (e.g., self-management). More specifically, in today’s rapid technological advances and globalization, these ever-changing environments sometimes cannot permit the traditional function of leaders to process the tasks. A follower with an independent role might be forced to take the active role to embrace an ambiguous situation in order to operate the task.
According to Lundin and Lancaster (1990), effective followers are individuals who (a) possess of a high level of organizational understanding, (b) make sound decisions, (c) show enthusiasm when asked to do tasks, (d) demonstrate strong commitment to their work, and (e) take on a high level of responsibility. Nolan and Harty (1984) suggested intelligence, cooperativeness, diplomacy, and sociability are also important qualities of good followership. As key resources for any organization, Barrette (2010) also provided seven traits of good followers: humanity, loyalty, honesty, integrity, reliability, utility, and synergy. Without a doubt, followers play an important building block to the organizational structure.