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Followership: A collective Gray Cardinal for leaders



Kirjoittanut: Mikhail Filippov - tiimistä Sointu.

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Followership. How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders
Barbara Kellerman
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 2 minuuttia.

It is in almost every creature’s nature to be living in a certain group: Flock of sheep, pride of lions, pack of wolves etc. And so do we, humans, social creatures, from the very childhood enjoy the company of some kind of group of other people. But we, however, have perfected this form of cohabitation with building a very strict hierarchy of dependence in it. The words “Leader” and “Followers” became inseparable, with the full authority in the hand of the former, and complete obedience and compliance of the latter. For a long time, nobody questioned whether it is possible to reverse this relationship, forcing the one in the lead to be a servant to ones with lower power, until the 20th century came, and such changes started happening, so somewhere during that time, we received a new phenomena, and a new word in the vocabulary – Followership.

So what is Followership?

This word, despite the rise in popularity of the process it named, was at first highly avoided from appearing in the professional leadership literature and speech of executives of companies and high management due to the threat it started to pose to them and their understanding of the classic way of exercising power in their group, so instead, you could see words such as empowerment or others, which is not truly followership is. Instead, according to Barbara Kellerman’s Followership. How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, Followership is defined as a relationship(rank) between subordinates and superiors, and a response(behavior) of former to latter. Or how I would define it, Followership is the active involvement of the subordinates in achieving mutual goals with leader.

Why do we need Followership?

Since Followership in a nutshell has been defined as commitment to what the group does, then what makes the ones in control shake in their boots the moment they hear this word? Well, to begin with, Followership offers benefits in a face of creation of tighter and deeper connections between the members and leaders, giving courage to speak up more to former, and sending a strong message of necessity being closer to the ones under control to latter. This will inevitably lead to higher engagement of individuals in the processes, influence the creativity of individuals and group, and also enforcement of accountability for their actions. Furthermore, Followership serves as an instrument of punishment or a certain ‘Immunity”. Yes! Followers affect leader’s decisions, but in case they are incompatible with group’s vision or capabilities, consequences may turn out to be severe, up to full dismissal of leader. Lastly, followership helps in restructuration of the team independently from the leader. That means, when some struggle appears on the team’s way, people may very likely start solving it without any pressure on the leader’s side.

Putting this concept into real life, from my perspective, at our teams we don’t have an issue of bad leadership, moreover, at our team in particular, leaders are constantly engaged with the same problems, as ordinary members of the team, and there have been cases of independent organization without any guidance or executive order from leader.

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