What is Followership?
“Followership is a process whereby an individual or individuals accept the influence of others to accomplish a goal.” As with any role, followers can be more or less effective in carrying out their responsibilities.“What distinguishes an effective from an ineffective follower is enthusiastic, intelligent, and self-reliant participation—without star billing—in the pursuit of an organizational goal.” — Robert Kelley (1988)
Read More: In Praise of Followers
Followers “support and aid the leader when he or she is doing the right thing and stand up to the leader, having the courage to let the leader know when he or she is doing something wrong or headed in the wrong direction,” — Ronald E. Riggio.
Why is Followership important?
Without followers, there would be no leaders and very little would be accomplished. Research on organizational accomplishments estimated that 80% of organizational success can be attributed to the contributions of followers. Followers are essential people who can turn a vision into reality. They can also provide new leaders with feedback and guidance to help them stay on track, avoid mistakes and learn and grow. When followers are not engaged and contributing, they can derail organizational efforts and create an environment of low morale that may result in high costs to the organization in lost time, energy and talent. “For any project or organization to succeed, there must be people who willingly and effectively follow, just as there must be those who willingly and effectively lead.”
Being an effective follower is also good training for future leaders. Agho (2009) collected the perceptions of over 300 senior-level executives on the distinguishing characteristics of effective leaders and followers. Although his findings don’t show identical characteristics, he states that ‘a significant number of the respondents agreed that followership skills should be viewed as prerequisites for effective leadership’ (p. 7).
Read More: Perspectives of Senior Level Executives on Effective Followership and Leadership
Finally, it is also important for leaders to have a good understanding of who their followers are and what their followers need from them in order to be effective in their roles.