Followership Essay

Followership is group membership [1]. Followers are people who join a group [2]. Followership theory suggests that leadership is not an individual process, but involves interactions between group members. Followership theory has been applied in a wide range of domains including:

– Sport teams [3]

– School teachers and students [4]

– Industrial or business teams [5]

– Couples in committed relationships [6]

Followership theory focuses on group processes, norms and interactions. Followers play an important role in leadership. Followers develop their own expectations of what the leader should do, how they should act, and what roles they should fulfill to effectively lead the group. Followership theory suggests that leadership effectiveness does not solely depend on the leader’s traits or abilities but also depends upon followers’ needs and expectations [7]. Followership Theory has been defined as “a proposed theoretical perspective that addresses how followers assign responsibility for leadership roles to individuals” (Hosking et al. 1999).

Followers can be seen as decision makers who seek a leader who best meets their expectations. Followership theory focuses on the leadership process from the perspective of those being led, as opposed to those acting as leaders [8]. Followership can be thought of as a role within a group. Followers need leadership and they play multiple roles in their interactions with other members of the group [9] Followership Theory suggests that once certain followers are assigned to lead, others will follow because they feel obligated to support them (Hosking 1997).

Followers make decisions about whether or not to support specific individuals throughout their tenure leading the group by assessing whether or not they meet their own perceptions of what it takes to effectively lead the group (Finkel et al. , 2001) Followership theory is based on the idea that followers are not passive actors in their groups. Followers play an active role in determining who is effective at leading them [10], and they are selective about which leaders they choose to follow [11].

Followership is dynamic, changing throughout group interaction with people participating in different levels of leadership depending on the situation. Followership has also been described as a process by which followers attempt to determine which leader will best meet their needs for direction, motivation, and innovation in decision-making tasks [12] Followership varies within groups in terms of both task characteristics (e. g. , task structure) and interdependence among members (Kark & van Dijk).

For example, it may be more or less likely for a leader to emerge based on the task at hand, and whether or not members are equally qualified to lead. Followership can also vary in terms of how well matched leaders are within the group (for example, some research suggests that followers tend to seek out leaders who are more similar than dissimilar to them; see Kark & van Dijk). Followership has been shown to impact team effectiveness [13]. Followership theory suggests that leadership is shared by members of groups.

Followers usually find someone they like and respect who is capable of leading the group into action. Followers look for several characteristics in their leaders including: competence, warmth, self-confidence, independence, creativity and intelligence [14]. Followership is a dynamic process where group leadership depends on the situation. Followers will look to see if leaders have the characteristics they need in order to accomplish their goal, and they respond differently when a leader has different levels of those characteristics [15].

Followership theory changes the focus from people who are born with certain qualities that make them likely to become effective leaders, to followers who choose leaders based on what they bring to the table [16]. Followership theory suggests that leadership is not limited to just one person within a group or organization. Leadership can be shared by anyone willing and able in a given situation [17]. Followership is a psychological state where an individual expects another individual or collective entity (e. g. , team) contain competent leadership abilities.

Followership is distinct from the concept of submissive, which refers to an individual’s low-level psychological need for leadership suggesting that followers yield to leader demands or attempt to please leaders in order to gain social reward (Hosking & Griffee 2008). Followers are motivated by certain needs and expectations about how effective someone will be at leading them toward their goals, and they work together with other group members so that everyone can help determine who is best fit among them as a leader.

Followership theory suggests that individuals choose whom they choose as leaders based on followers’ own perceptions of potential leaders’ ability to contribute task relevant knowledge, problem solving skills, credibility, tactical expertise, decision making skill or effectiveness in facilitating group processes [18]. Followership has been defined as a process where followers attempt to determine which leader will best meet their needs for direction, motivation, and innovation in decision-making tasks [12].

Followers are constantly sizing up potential leaders’ abilities so they can gain social rewards through the knowledge that they know what is best. Followership suggests that leadership is not fixed position but rather shared by the members of the group [19]. Followership moves leadership away from its sole reliance on authoritative figures who hold official positions with power over subordinates. Followers respect only those leaders whose abilities reflect the value of followership in an organization [20].

Followership theory states that when groups face complex problems it creates more opportunities for leadership than when there are simple tasks to accomplish. Followers in these complex situations decide when to assume leadership roles, and they also determine when to follow the leader [21]. Followership theory changes the paradigm of leadership because it suggests that followers are an active part in choosing leaders rather than waiting for someone to pick them [22]. Followership theory has its roots in social cognitive theories where individual behavior is mediated by perceptions within one’s environment.

Followership research applies similar concepts found in follower-leader theory (see House) which calls for a detailed analysis of both leadership and followership dynamics together with power relationships between members of groups/teams/organizations [15]. Followership Theory was developed out of the work examined in Fiedler’s Contingency Model (1964) which suggested that leadership effectiveness is related to the degree of follower satisfaction and experiences with leader’s technical ability.

Followership Theory suggests that neither the leader nor follower constructs bought into Fiedler’s Contingency Model, and followership theory evolved out of this critique [23]. Followership Theory was developed as a counterpoint to Fiedler’s Contingency Theory. Followership theory suggests that followers form their own perceptions about who they think will be most effective for any given task or situation regardless of whether or not that person holds an official position as a member of the leadership team [14].

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