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Followership

Followership is defined as leadership influence of a manager on subordinates (Conger et al., 2000). Leadership is not something a leader possesses, so much as a process involving followership. Without followers, there are no leaders or leadership (Hollander, 1993; Wiener et al., 1993). Followership, like leadership, is a skill that can be learned (CAA, 2006), but for a follower, the skills are exercised in a supporting role that does not attempt to undermine the leader. This can be noted by how the leadership behaviour of the manager or team leader influences subordinates’ reactions towards the manager as a leader, and towards themselves as subordinates and their task efforts.

Leadership and followership are intertwined, yet they are not equally examined. Leadership receives much attention, but this also requires an understanding of leader- member relations in teams and groups involving active followership (Hollander and Offerman, 1997). The topic of followership has been examined in relation to charisma theories of leadership. Charismatic leadership has been found to produce higher performance levels among followers, as well as more motivated and satisfied followers (Shamir et al., 1993). According to Conger et al. (2000), followers of charismatic leaders develop reverence for their leaders, in that they perceive their leader to be extraordinary. These followers also have higher collective identity as the leader employs vision to set goals and to shape a collective identity for followers, and have better understanding and have more realistic assessments of what tasks can actually be accomplished collectively by the team.

Perceptions of leaders can vary depending on whether things go well or not, and this is sometimes called ‘the romance of leadership’. If things go really well, this is attributed to the leader’s skill, but if things go badly, the leader’s ineptitude is blamed (Meindl et al., 1985). However, if things are moderate, then it is unlikely that this is attributed to average leadership.

 
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