Leaders and Followers

***As I progress through my doctoral program I will be placing some of my work on here.  Please feel free to engage with me in the learning process and seeking greater depth in understanding of leadership, scripture, and life.

Question: Why is followership important to leaders and organizations?

The study of leadership is largely imbalanced and fairly incomplete in scope.  “For much of the last one hundred years…leadership studies have inevitably focused on the role and importance of the positional or formal leader.” (Cox, 2010, p. 37) Unfortunately, this has allowed large gaps in the understanding and practice of leaders as a whole. Ira Chaleff (1996) points out that “leadership and followership are two parts of one dynamic relationship.” (p. 16) If they are two parts to a whole, how can leadership be effectively practiced while followership remains largely unfamiliar territory as an intentional practice?

The overall assumption has been that leadership provides intangibles to their followers. Chaleff (1996) would disagree with such a premise saying “Ultimately, a follower doesn’t draw power or authority from a leader.” (p. 16) The follower appears to not be as dependent upon the leader as has been assumed.

As a result of study Warren Bennis (1999) came to the realization that “TOPdown leadership was not only wrong, unrealistic, and maladaptive but…dangerous.” (p. 71) There must be greater attention given to understanding followership and its relationship to leadership.  Chaleff (1996) says “The ideal leader-follower dynamic is a healthy relationship with peers, although one party formally possesses ultimate authority.” (p. 16) One is not more important, but rather they are equally important in their specific roles.

Is it possible that leaders are more in need of followers than followers are of leaders?


Bennis, W. (1999) The End of Leadership: Exemplary Leadership is Impossible Without Full Inclusion, Initiatives, and Cooperation of Followers. Organizational Dynamics, 28(1), 71-79.
Cox, I., Raymond W., Plagens, G. K., & Sylla, K. (2010). The Leadership-followership Dynamic: Making the Choice to Follow. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 5(8), 37–51.
Chaleff, I. (1996). Effective Followership. Executive Excellence, 13(4), 16-17.


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