Good Research Paper About Followership

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Leadership, Follower, Military, Sociology, Leader, Behavior, Business, Organization

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/01/11

Followers play significant roles in military, business and social contexts. By abiding by rules set over long periods and administrated by leaders, followers perform active roles in respective contexts. Being obedient – one characteristic of followers – is not a passive role played by followers but, contrary to common belief, an active engagement in and a dutiful commitment to assigned duty, mission or job. The roles followers play shape and are shaped by leaders. Being inspired, followers abide by leaders' guidance. By questioning leaders, followers shape decision made by leaders. The roles of followers are generic but still show distinctive features in different contexts. In a military context, deference and obedience are shown most notably as fundamental characteristics in follower behavior. In a business context, executive commitment is one most notable follower behavior. In a social context, paternal deference, for example, is one most distinctive follower behavior. To better understand follower behavior, a closer examination of follower roles is required.
Being a construct, followership is both a fixed and dynamic identity. By expressing characteristics expected from – and constructed by – broader community, followership is a fixed identity bound by broader community's conceptualizations. By engaging in decision-making process made by leaders and by critiquing leaders', followers show a dynamic identity which can hardly be pinned down to one or few characteristics defined by external entities. Thus, in being both fixed and dynamic, followers express a dyad which is, in fact, characteristic of follower behavior as both shapers and objects of actions. Indeed, as is recurring in followership literature, followership and leadership are similar in behaviors shown in performing short-, medium-, and long-range activities. A good leader is, after all, a good leader.
As noted, followers show both fixed and dynamic features in behavioral roles. This duality is not, in fact, well defined, understood, or enacted in different contexts adequately. In a literate survey, a leader-follower dichotomy is shown to undermine, rather than achieving, organizational goals (Vanderslice, 1988). In conventional, hierarchical organizations, for example, leader-follower dichotomy is most pronounced. By strictly assigning staff into leader and follower roles, not only are fixed channels of communication between leaders and followers continue to narrow communication between leaders and followers but also lead, ultimately, to unnecessary bottlenecks in organizational behavior. Further, identity of followers becomes, increasingly, stereotypical and falls into pres-set slots of assigned roles. In contrast, more open and flat organizations show different organizational patterns. By eliminating barriers to not only communication but also to organizational hierarchies, leader-follower duality no longer exists. Instead, followers show dynamism in performing roles a as well innovation in questioning leaders and participating in decision-making process. Increasingly, hence, more and more organizations are adopting open and flat structures – as opposed to conventional ones – given how effective follower role is in not only decision-making process but also in shaping business context.
Similarly, in social contexts stricter forms of leader-follower relationship limit potential of followers and are even considered crimes by forfeiting and laying all ethical responsibility on leaders alone (Hinrichs, 2007). A strictly hierarchical social structure has, historically, shown patterns of extreme despotism and collective coercion. By expressing a capacity for bargaining as well as reciprocity, followers – in a flatter and more open social organization – show more potential and are apt to positively impact on community by active participation I decision-making process. Further, by assuming ethical responsibility for actions, followers are no longer confined to conventional slots of passivity, obedience and deference.
The leadership-followership relationship is one which continues to define both. Indeed, followership is not only correlated to leadership (Tanoff & Barlow, 2002) but shows as well characteristics similar to ones shown by leadership (Nolan & Harty, 1984). Thus, followership, as noted, does not represent a static identity nor is irresponsive to leadership influences. In fact, in a longitudinal field study, 54 military units and leaders are shown to predict transformational leadership by expressing initial level of self-actualization needs, internalization of organization's moral values, collectivistic orientation, critical-independent approach, active engagement in task, and self-efficacy (Dvir & Shamir, 2003). Accordingly, leadership qualities are acquired gradually in followers not only by inspiration from leaders but also by self-development. This is, again, another notable characteristic in followership. By self-development – rather than guidance or inspiration from leaders – followers acquire necessary qualities for leaders and hence are able to define a style of leadership which is not necessarily directly borrowed or defined by "inspired leaders". One advantage for such a leadership style is absence of despotic inclinations of dominant leaders which is more familiar in communities or groups structured hierarchically as to assign individuals and sub-groups in pre-defined order. Further, by developing leadership styles independently, followers are able to inform more established leaders in decision-making process and hence add value to overall management process of individuals, groups or communities.
Understanding followership remains a basic conceptual challenge. Given dynamism as well as a long history of constructionism, followership is an area of inquiry which requires further investigation. Followership is not, moreover, significant as a conceptual framework of value for group dynamics but also for more practical reasons. If anything, a deeper understanding of followership is required in more practical contexts – as opposed to leadership, a much researched area – in order to gain insights into followership dynamics as followers interact with leaders. A line of research has shown followership – as a concept – is more probably to improve training and organizational performance (B. Crossman & J. Crossman, 2011). Indeed, followership is a area of great potential if understood in better conceptual as well as practical frameworks.
Notably, in a global business context in which structures are increasingly becoming less hierarchical and more flat, boundaries between leadership and followership are indeed blurred. That is, as leaders no longer dominate corporate scene – in business contexts – and followers are having a louder say in management issues, being a "higher up" is becoming less of a privilege and a hierarchical asset. Rather, leaders are being increasingly inspired by followers who continue to inform business functions and activities with experiences leaders might not be able to offer and insights executives in higher positions cannot see. The same logic applies to different context: social, military and political.
Socially, younger generations – even in cultures in which seniority is a major asset – show less deference to older generations. Notably, as disruptive technologies continue to re-shape cultures globally, New Millennials are showing increasingly propensity for computer-mediated communication, a propensity which only emphasizes decreasing dependency on physical, social networks of communication in which conventional leaders are parents, instructors or persons of similar status.
Militarly, chain of commands still prevails, of course. Yet, new emerging generations of military persons are re-shaping a new way of leading and following. Contrary to conventional forms of military leadership in which leaders are all-powerful commanders in field an operation control rooms, new generation of military leaders are delegating more and more of military jobs to lower ranks and become more focused on strategic goals. Interestingly, followership in military operation over recent decades has been a more innovative act in which lower rank military personnel offer more input – and hence provide deeper insights – to military leaders.
Politically, a new breed of followers is becoming major players in local, national and international arenas. As opposed to old charismatic leaders, more recent generations of political followers are inspired by broader masses of electoral base rather than being a source of inspiration. Thus, in politics, recent generations of politicians inform older ones and are informed by broader masses.
In conclusion, followership remains a much less investigated are of inquiry. By engaging in decisions-making process, followers are becoming less blindly bound by leaders' actions than by behaviors decided based on situational contexts. Sometimes, followership is a form of ethical crime by forfeiting full responsibility to despotic leaders. More recently, as organizational structures ease out, more hierarchical forms of management are losing ground and are replaced by flatter, more open forms of organization. In fact, in social, military and political contexts, followers are showing more "leadership" in social, military and political administration. If anything, followership is a conceptual and pragmatic question which needs to be further investigated for deeper insights into new forms of conducting social, political, business and military affairs.


Crossman, B., & Crossman, J. (2011). Conceptualising followership – a review of the literature. Leadership, 7(4), 481-497. Sage Journals. doi: 10.1177/1742715011416891
Dvir, T., & Shamir, B. (2003). Follower developmental characteristics as predicting transformational leadership: a longitudinal field study. The Leadership Quarterly, 14(3), 327–344. ScienceDirect. doi: 10.1016/S1048-9843(03)00018-3
Hinrichs, T. K. (2007). Follower Propensity to Commit Crimes of Obedience: The Role of Leadership Beliefs. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 14(1), 69-76. Sage Journals. doi:  10.1177/1071791907304225
Nolan, J. S., & Harty, H. F. (1984). Followership  ≥ leadership. Education, 104(3), 311-312. APA PsycNET. Retrieved from
Tanoff, G. F., & Barlow, C. B.(2002). Leadership and followership: Same animal, different spots? Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 54(3), 157-165. APA PsycNET. doi: 10.1037/1061-4087.54.3.157
Vanderslice, J. V. (1988). Separating Leadership from Leaders: An Assessment of the Effect of Leader and Follower Roles in Organizations. Human Relations, 41(9), 677-696. Sage Journals. doi: 10.1177/001872678804100903

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