Leadership and followership
Leadership and followership

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Leadership and followership

2 The benefits of good followership

Good followership benefits both followers and leaders in a variety of ways. When followers and leaders are working effectively together this will also have a positive impact on the organisation they work for.

Four shiny, silver cogs, each held in someone’s hand and interlocking in the centre of the image.
Figure 2 When followers and leaders work well together there are many benefits.

It is clear that leaders and organisations benefit from effective, engaged employees, but there are benefits for the follower too, especially if they have an interest in developing themselves as future leaders.

Benefits for the follower

The typologies covered in the previous section labelled good followers as ‘effective’, ‘proactive’ or ‘partners’. As leaders increasingly value the partnerships they develop with their followers, followers should also be aware of the potential benefits to them.

Upward influencing

If a follower forms a positive relationship with their leader, they can potentially influence situations where they perceive the leader to be making a mistake or offer additional support if needed. They may also be able to improve circumstances for themselves and colleagues. This is sometimes known as ‘managing up’.

Kipnis and Schmidt (1983) identify four strategies of organisational influence that are commonly used when influencing superiors:

  1. Reason – using data and information to support your requests
  2. Coalition – mobilising others to support you
  3. Ingratiation – creating goodwill
  4. Bargaining – negotiating and exchanging benefits or favours.

It should be noted that these approaches are also used by leaders wishing to influence their followers, i.e. the same skills and attributes, but they are just deployed in a different way.

Activity 2 Influencing up

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Think of a time when you’ve tried to influence someone who was senior to you. What strategy did you use – reason, coalition, ingratiation or bargaining? Was it successful? If it wasn’t, might one of the other strategies have worked better? Make notes in the space below:

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Discussion

The most successful approach will depend on the person you’re trying to influence. For example, one person might respond better to a logical argument with back-up data, whereas another might prefer an exchange of benefits. These are not the only strategies you could use. Depending on the problem, you may need to elicit the support of a more senior member of staff, or use recognised organisational policies and processes to highlight an issue.

If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, have a look at the Managing your Manager tool in the Toolkit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

This may help you to better understand your boss and their context.

Developing leadership skills

As a follower, you have the opportunity to develop yourself as a leader of the future. This might be through observing the strengths and weaknesses of your leader, or through the support, advice and development opportunities that they give you. Many of the skills and attributes you develop as an effective follower are mirrored in an effective leader, for example:

  • courage
  • judgement
  • communication
  • independent thinking
  • initiative
  • self-awareness and self-management
  • commitment
  • diplomacy
  • collaboration
  • influencing.

Agho (2009) collected the perceptions of over 300 senior-level executives on the distinguishing characteristics of effective leaders and followers. Although his findings don’t show identical characteristics, he states that ‘a significant number of the respondents agreed that followership skills should be viewed as prerequisites for effective leadership’ (p. 7).

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