“A Review of the Literature on Followership Since 2008: The Importance of Relationships and Emotional Intelligence” by Richard Martin (2015)

Followership continues to be a field of study in the larger field of leadership. In 2008, Ricketson offered an in-depth analysis of the relationship between the variables of leadership styles and courageous followership. Since then, the research has continued to accumulate in attempts to offer new insight on the topic. This article explores the empirical research that has been conducted since Ricketson’s dissertation to determine what new information has been offered and what new conclusions can be reached in this area. In particular, there is widespread agreement on the importance of building the leader–follower relationship in developing effective followers and leaders. This leads to the conclusion that emotional intelligence (EI) plays an important role in the creation of both as it facilitates the establishment of the leader–follower relationship. Future research suggestions are offered as well. Read the full article

“Followership: The Other Side of Leadership” by John S. McCallum (2013)

“Followership may take the backseat to leadership but it matters:  it matters a lot!  Quite simply, where followership is a failure, not much gets done and/or what does get done is not what was supposed to get done.  Followership problems manifest themselves in a poor work ethic, bad morale, distraction from goals, unsatisfied customers, lost opportunities, high costs, product quality issues and weak competitiveness.  At the extreme, weak leadership and weak followership are two sides of the same coin and the consequence is always the same:  organizational confusion and poor performance.” McCallum discusses the qualities of effective followers in this article. Read the full article

“In Praise of Followers” by Robert Kelley (1988)

In today’s flatter, leaner organization, companies will not succeed without the kind of people who take pride and satisfaction in the role of supporting player, doing the less glorious work without fanfare. Organizations that want the benefits of effective followers must find ways of rewarding them, ways of bringing them into full partnership in the enterprise. Think of the thousands of companies that achieve adequate performance and lackluster profits with employees they treat like second-class citizens. Then imagine for a moment the power of an organization blessed with fully engaged, fully energized, fully appreciated followers. Kelley discusses the role of followers, qualities of effective followers and how to cultivate effective followers. Read the full article

“In Praise of Followers” PMI Conference Paper by Lawrence Suda (2013)

A good overview of what followership is, why it is important, styles and models of followership, what leaders need from followers and what followers need from leaders.  Read the full article

“Research: To Be a Good Leader, Start by Being a Good Follower” by Kim Peters and Alex Haslam (2018)

Leadership is a process that emerges from a relationship between leaders and followers. People will be more effective leaders when their behaviors indicate that they are one of us, that they share our values, concerns and experiences, and are working for us. Seen this way, perhaps the usual advice for aspiring leaders — “stand out from your peers” — is wrong. Perhaps aspiring leaders would be better served by ensuring that they are seen to be a good follower. A longitudinal study of 218 Royal Marines recruits completing an arduous 32 week training course suggests that may be the case: the Marines who saw themselves as followers, and were simply focused on getting the work done, were more likely to be recognized as leaders by both peers and commanders. But there’s a caveat: Marines who saw themselves as leaders were seen by commanders (but not by peers) as having more leadership potential. This suggests that what good leadership looks like is highly dependent on where evaluators are standing. Read the full article

“What Every Leader Needs to Know About Followers” by Barbara Kellerman (2007)

In this article, Kellerman explores the evolving dynamic between leaders and those they lead and offers a typology that managers can use to determine and appreciate how their followers are different from one another. Using the level of engagement with a leader or group as a defining factor, the author segments followers into five types: Isolates are completely detached; they passively support the status quo with their inaction. Bystanders are free riders who are somewhat detached, depending on their self-interests. Participants are engaged enough to invest some of their own time and money to make an impact. Activists are very much engaged, heavily invested in people and process, and eager to demonstrate their support or opposition. And diehards are so engaged they’re willing to go down with the ship—or throw the captain overboard. Read the full article