Revolution Lullabye

November 5, 2013

Dixon and Westbrook, Followers Revealed

Dixon, Gene and Jerry Westbrook. “Followers Revealed.” Engineering Management Journal 15.1 (March 2003): 19-25.

The authors argue that employees at higher levels of organizational management (executives) have stronger followership characteristics than employees at the mid-manager level and operational level. Their argument is based on their survey of nearly 300 employees from all organizational levels who work at 17 different engineering and technology firms. Dixon and Westbrook used Chaleff’s theory of courageous followership (1995) and his five followership attributes to frame and design their study. They argue that their finding shows that the most successful leaders know how to be good followers, and they introduce the idea of the leader-follower concept – that employees are neither just leaders nor followers but can switch between the roles as appropriate.

Notable Notes

Always more followers than leaders – always more to the conversation than your own argument

Followers work with leaders to produce knowledge and find meaning

Argues that managers need to cultivate followership attributes in their organizations, give strategies for doing so

References a change in 21st work – less employee/employer attachment, desire of managers to reduce overhead. Employees are different and are motivated differently in today’s global workplace.

Chaleff’s five behaviors of courageous followership: courage to assume responsibility, to serve, to challenge, to participate in transformation, and to leave/take moral action. These behaviors drive action in a successful organization.

Quotable Quotes

“But preoccupation with leadership hinders considering the nature and importance of the follower and the interrelationship and interdependence required between leaders and followers” (20).

“Being a follower is a condition, not a position” (20).

 

Cox, Plagens, and Sylla, The Leadership-Followership Dynamic

Cox, Raymond W. III, Gregory K. Plagens, and Keba Sylla. “The Leadership-Followership Dynamic: Making the Choice to Follow.” The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences 5.8 (2010): 37-51. Print.

The authors give a framework for a follower-centric definition of leadership, putting the focus on the followers, not the leaders. They argue that it is followers, not leaders, who determine an organization’s success, and in order for an organization to be effective, both leaders and followers need to trust one another and understand each other’s roles. Following and followership are not the same – following can be passive, but followership is an active choice. The authors draw on leadership studies in history, psychology, management, political science, business administration, and public administration and present an in-depth overview of leadership and followership theories from the early twentieth century onward.

Notable Notes

Leaders have to solve problems, so one of their jobs is to recruit problem solvers (46). – leaders have to find someone to follow them (47)

James MacGregor Burns (1978) – argued for two kinds of leadership: transactional v. transformative. Their definition of a follower-centric idea of leadership depends on Burns’ scholarship and definitions

Challenges the notion that leaders alone can make an organization better (38) – acknowledges that there has been a shift from transactional leadership to transformational leadership (38)

Defines leadership, followership, leading, following

Gives a detailed overview of the history of leadership theory – the evolution, corrections, recorrections: leadership as command, cooperative leadership, leadership of groups, the psychology of leadership, organizational leadership, the new public management, the leadership-followership dynamic

Leadership-followership dynamic: cites early and mid-20th century theorists that were interested in worker motivation and their affinity to the organization, the human/follower component to leadership. Leadership requires legitimacy (ethos) (44)

Quotable Quotes

“followership is an a priori choice (self-conscious) of the individual in the context of his or her relationship to the nominal leader” (48) – followership is not compelled by rank or hierarchy; following is (48).

“Leadership means understanding how to promote excellence and protect values in the workplace. This collaboration requires changes in the assumptions about leadership and its definition. Leadership emerges through a stance of flexibility and adaptability, trust from the followers, and accommodation to inevitable change. This creates a partnership instead of a hierarchal relationship” (43).

“In summary, leaders and followers both must have the ability to interchange their role. Meaning that the leader must be decisive and desirous of becoming the follower, and the follower must be capable as well as desirous of leading. In addition, leadership is not only a behavioral attitude but it also includes ethics and intention” (45).

“The follower is no longer a mere subordinate who accepts and obeys the dictates of the leader. The leader or leadership also is transformed due to the complexity and the necessity of collaboration. Understanding each other’s role and values is essential in this transformation of the traditional view in organizations” (47).

 

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