Leadership and Followership

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INTRODUCTION [pic] There is no leader without at least one follower. Yet the modern leadership industry, now a quarter-century old, is built on the proposition that leaders matter a great deal and followers hardly at all. Good leadership is the stuff of countless courses, workshops, books, and articles. Everyone wants to understand just what makes leaders tick—the charismatic ones, the retiring ones, and even the crooked ones. Good followership, by contrast, is the stuff of nearly nothing. Most of the limited research and writing on subordinates has tended to either explain their behavior in the context of leaders’ development rather than followers’ or mistakenly assume that followers are amorphous, all one and the same. As a…show more content…
As the ideas of the Enlightenment took hold in the eighteenth century, for instance, ordinary people (in industrialized societies especially) became less dependent on kings, landowners, and the like, and their expectations changed accordingly—as did their sense of empowerment. The trend continues. Increasingly, followers think of themselves as free agents, not as dependent underlings. And they act accordingly, often withholding support from bad leaders, throwing their weight behind good ones, and sometimes claiming commanding voices for those lower down in the social or organizational hierarchy. Witness the gradual demise of communism (and totalitarianism) in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and now China. And consider the social and political upheavals, all of them antiauthority, in the United States and elsewhere during the 1960s and 1970s. Similarly, there has been a dispersion of power at the highest levels of American business, partly because of changes in the cultures and structures of corporations as well as the advance of new technologies. CEOs share power and influence with a range of players, including boards, regulators, and shareholder activists. Executives at global companies must monitor the activities of subordinates situated thousands of miles away. And knowledge workers can choose independently to use collaborative technologies to connect with colleagues and partners in other companies and countries in order to get things done.
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