What is followership?
“Followership is a process whereby an individual or individuals accept the influence of others to accomplish a goal…. 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 (2015).
Why is followership important?
Without followers, there would be no leaders and very little would be accomplished. Research on organizational accomplishments estimated that 80 percent of organizational success can be attributed to the contributions of followers (Kelley, 1992). Followers are essential to turning 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 disengaged and or not contributing, they can derail organizational efforts and lower morale, which may be costly in terms of lost time, energy, and talent.
Being an effective follower is good training for future leaders. Agho (2009) collected the perceptions of more than 300 senior-level executives on the distinguishing characteristics of effective leaders and followers. Although respondents perceived differences in the characteristics that make good leaders and good followers, Agho found “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 in order to be effective in their roles.