In Praise of Followers – Robert Kelley stated in his Harvard Business Review article that effective followers are well-balanced and responsible adults who can succeed without strong leadership.

I never really considered ‘followership’ as a leadership theory. In fact, many do not consider followership as a leadership theory at all.

I like many haven’t really given followership the thought and attention it has deserved. We underestimated the power of followership and the impact it has towards organisational success.

Without successful and dedicated followers, leaders will struggle to succeed.

Although followership is viewed as a more recent approach or theory, the concept has been around for many years across industries and organisations. For example, in associations or schools, where the board decides, on behalf of its followers, who will be the leader/CEO and together they shape the leadership direction. Maybe in many organisations today, leadership is upside down.

With the rise of social currency and influencers, leaders cannot ignore the power of followership even in the most traditional organisations. Unfortunately, many see followership as subservient to leadership or a lesser role in organisational success.  However, without followers there would be no leaders. Without ‘followership’ there would be no successful leadership.

During a facilitated leadership discussion this week with a group of senior executives, I asked each person to reflect on their past and current leadership roles.

Several of the group made comment that on many occasions they felt they were on a lone mission. A mission to just get the job done and it really was lonely at the top.

A lone leadership mission is one fraught with danger. The danger of losing followers; the same followers who they may desperately need to drive the organisation forward. Has anything of any great significance ever been achieved by a single person acting alone?

Many of the group had the same lay theory of followership.   ‘Followers do not have the skills to lead’ Although this may be true for some, leadership is also a choice and many followers have developed great leadership skills but choose to draw on a different set of quality attributes and skills for different roles at different times.

Will the next era of leadership be the rise and power of followership?

Who is really following who?

Some of the biggest social media influencers are already ahead of the game on this one.

Paula Smith specialises in powerful presenting and leadership communication. Paula has been a trusted advisor to senior executives and entrepreneurs for the past 30 years.  Visit Paula’s Bio and Workshop page to learn more about Leadership Training in Perth.
Keynote Speaker, Author, Master Trainer and Business Leadership Coach