May 17, 2010

Shepherd and Sheep

Most people stereotype on followers includes weak, passive, apathetic and unmotivated. They are just a flock of sheep following the shepherd wherever he is guiding them. What we would prefer to enlist in our C.V. tends to be something like ¡¥leading xxx¡¦ or ¡¥president of xxx club/society¡¦. What about putting ¡¥being an effective follower in a group or organization¡¦? ¡§Following suffers from a serious image problem¡¨ (Douglas Smith). Most of us are aspired to be future leaders instead of followers.

However, we need to learn how to be a follower, an effective one, before becoming an effective leader. If we were not experienced the feelings as a follower, how could we put ourselves in followers¡¦ shoes once we become a leader? To some extents, we would know the way to effectively influence people if we have been through their positions before.

A number of researchers classify followers into different types.

a)     Abraham Zaleznik in 1965

1.     Impulsive

2.     Compulsive

3.     Masochistic

4.     Withdrawn

b)     Robert Kelley in 1992

1.     Alienated

2.     Passive

3.     Conformist

4.     Exemplary

5.     Pragmatic*

c)     Charles Manz and Henry Sim

1.     yes people

2.     calculative compliers

3.     enthusiastic sheep

4.     self-leaders

d)    Ira Chaleff in 1995

1.     Implementers

2.     Partners

3.     Individualists

4.     Resources

Among above Follower Typologies, I think Robert Kelley¡¦s category of pragmatic subordinate is the most effective follower. In other words, they have the four characteristics that Robert Kelley defines ¡§Self-management, Commitment, Competence and Focus, and Courage.¡¨ Above all, they know when and where to play the role as a leader or as a follower.


Barbara Kellerman (Dec 2007). What Every Leader Needs to Know About Followers. Harvard Business Review.

Kathryn J. Deiss (May 1998). The Shared Leadership Principle: Creating Leaders Throughout the Organization. Association of Research Libraries, Washington, DC

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Comment awaiting approval

    This comment is awaiting approval by the author of the entry.

    17 May 2010, 09:55

  2. interesting point of mentioning “effective follower” on CV…

    effective follower or active follower? I struggle to decide!!

    23 May 2010, 23:32

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