Five Perspectives on Followership

Perspective 1: Followers Get the Job Done

This perspective shifts focus from a leader-centric view to recognizing the essential role of followers in executing the organization's mission. It suggests that leadership is not solely about the leader's personality or directives but significantly about how followers interpret and respond to leadership. This view encourages organizations to pay closer attention to followers' attributes such as personalities, cognitive abilities, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving abilities. The implication here is that by understanding and enhancing these attributes, organizations can improve their overall effectiveness and efficiency.

Perspective 2: Followers Work in the Best Interest of the Organization’s Mission

Proactive followers, who prioritize the organization's goals over the leader's personal agenda, serve as a safeguard against unethical or self-serving leadership actions. This perspective highlights the importance of fostering a culture where followers feel empowered to align their actions with the organization's mission and challenge directives that conflict with organizational values. The role of followers as a check and balance on the leader's power underscores the need for open channels of communication and an organizational culture that values ethical conduct and accountability.

Perspective 3: Followers Challenge Leaders

The ability of followers to challenge leaders constructively is crucial for organizational success. It ensures that leaders receive diverse perspectives and are aware of potential blind spots in their decision-making. This perspective advocates for a culture that encourages critical thinking, open dialogue, and mutual respect between leaders and followers. By fostering an environment where challenging the status quo is seen as beneficial, organizations can enhance their adaptability, innovation, and alignment with their mission.

Perspective 4: Followers Support the Leader

Supportive followers play a vital role in validating and advancing a leader's vision and goals. This perspective emphasizes the significance of building a supportive team around leaders to reinforce their position and facilitate the achievement of organizational objectives. It suggests that leaders should cultivate relationships with their followers based on trust, respect, and mutual support to ensure that their vision is effectively communicated and embraced by the team.

Perspective 5: Followers Learn From Leaders

The relationship between leaders and followers is not unidirectional; followers learn from leaders through observation and engagement. This learning process is invaluable for followers to develop leadership skills and understand effective leadership practices. Organizations can leverage this dynamic by providing opportunities for followers to observe, engage with, and reflect on leadership processes, thereby preparing them for future leadership roles.

Source — Leadership: Theory and Practice by Peter G. Northouse