Leadership and followership
Leadership and followership

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Leadership and followership

1.1 What type of follower are you?

So far in this course, you’ve spent some time considering what type of leader you are, or could be, but how many of us ever think about what type of follower we are?

Activity 1 What type of follower are you?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

In Week 1, Activity 2, you thought about your reasons for following various leaders. Choose one of those leader–follower relationships and using the typologies listed in this section, consider what type of follower you are. Summarise your thoughts here:

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Your follower type might be determined by a range of factors, from a response to the characteristics of the leader, to the personal qualities and behaviours of the follower. Context can also play a significant role, for example if a department’s funding is suddenly cut, this is likely to have an impact on the engagement and commitment of staff. Do you see yourself as an effective follower? If not, why not? What would help you to become more engaged? Do you think your leader understands the benefits of having effective followers? If you are an effective follower, what inspires you to be engaged and energetic? How do you benefit from that relationship? If you want to become a more effective follower, set yourself a relevant goal, for example, to give constructive feedback to your leader within the next month. Use your leadership journal to list some ideas. The GROW Goal Setting tool in your Toolkit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   might also be helpful.

Identifying your own follower type will make you more aware of how you and other individuals interact with leaders. This awareness will be useful when reflecting on your own role as a leader and the relationships you have with those following you.

How to be a better follower

In the typologies explored here, positive/pro-active followership is about having energy and assertiveness, providing support but being willing to question, and seeing yourself as a partner rather than a subordinate.

Professor Jean Hartley offers her thoughts on how to be a good follower here – including the value of understanding your leader’s personality and preferences.

Download this video clip.Video player: lf_1_video_week5_hartley_a.mp4
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So thinking about how to be a good follower is really important and very helpful for your own leader. So in some respects, being a good follower also follows some of the same characteristics of being a good leader, in some ways, in the sense of thinking about yourself, thinking about the people you're working with, and thinking about the context that you're in.
So, I guess the first thing about being a good follower is thinking quite a lot about your boss or your leader. What kind of person are they? What are they trying to achieve? In what kind of circumstances? What kind of things are helping them? What kind of things hindering them? What kind of preferences do they have? And therefore, how can you help them achieve what they want to achieve, so long as it's a legitimate purpose?
So you may want to think about the preferences of your boss. For example, is your boss or your leader, are they somebody who makes decisions particularly from figures and performance data? Or do they like to hear stories? Are they somebody who likes to hear the good news first, and then the bad news? Or do they like to get everything out on the table and really understand the situation? Are they- is your leader somebody who likes detail? Or do they like the big picture?
And it can be really helpful, as a follower, to start with what it is your leader most likes to get out of a situation. You can then follow up as a good follower with the things that you think are important to help them. But it's very useful to start with what they're going to be most- find most important.
I think some of the other things about being a good follower are trying to see the whole picture, see just yourself as probably one of several followers. And therefore, what's your role relative to other people? Can you take the initiative? Can you volunteer to do things? Can you present questions or problems in ways that your leader is going to find constructive rather than obstructive? Because they will listen so much better if they feel you're actually trying to help the situation rather than just pull down their ideas. Or at least that may be how they perceive it.
I guess one of the other things about being a good follower is to actually, if you are in a leadership position yourself, to think about your own followers. And think about who are the people you find good followers? They're helpful, they're constructive to you. Who are the people who are more difficult?
Now some difficult people can be quite constructive in the end. But, it's worth just reflecting on the people you've worked with, and think about what they've done that's been helpful to you. And then apply that at the level above you. But, as I said, taking into account your leader's and preferences and the way that they take in information and like to make decisions.

End transcript
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In the next section, you’ll explore some of the benefits of being a good follower.


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